Is that Viral Story real?

The Internet has almost as many videos as there are stars in the heavens. And you know that some have to be hoaxes. Sometimes it’s obvious, while other times it’s easy to be fooled. For example, the hoax of the “angel” intercepting a truck just about to run over a bicyclist is obviously fake. Isn’t it?

1DBut what about the video of the man cut in half by a bus while riding a bicycle, lying on the ground, staring at his intestines, talking for a full five minutes, while his pelvis and legs lie catty-corner to him? That video looks eerily real.

And so did the enormously viral one of the Syrian refugees holding the ISIS flags and assaulting German police officers.

There are free, non-techy ways to check if a video or image is a fake, from an article at

“Reverse Image”

Simply right-click an image, and a selection box will appear. Click “Search Google for this image.” Different sources for the same image will appear, but this won’t necessarily rule out a hoax.

For example, multiple links to the man cut in half appear, and the dates of postings differ, but there’s no way to rule out a hoax based on just this information.

However, suppose there’s a photo of a female ghost crashing a funeral photo. A reverse image search shows that ghost’s face as identical to the image of a mommy blogger on her blog; it’s safe to assume the ghost image is a hoax (aren’t they all?).

YouTube DataViewer

Go to YouTube DataViewer. Plug in the suspect video’s URL. Any associated thumbnail image plus upload time will be extracted. You now can find the earliest upload and see if anything is suspicious. Alongside that you can do a reverse image on the thumbnails and see what you get.


FotoForensics can detect photoshopping or digital manipulation. If you want to pursue a video, you’ll need to plug in the URL of a still shot, like the ones you see after a video has ended that clutter up the video space. FotoForensics uses a tool called ELA, and you’ll have to do some reading on it before understanding how it works.


WolframAlpha can look at weather conditions at a certain time and location, such as “weather in Davie, Florida at (time) and (date). So if the weather in a suspect image with a date and location doesn’t match what Wolfram turns up, consider it a fake.

Jeffrey’s Exif Viewer

Images taken with smartphones and digital cameras contain tons of data called EXIF, including date, time and location of image shoot. See if the date, time and location don’t jive with what the suspect image conveys. Jeffrey’s Exif Viewer is one such EXIF reader.

Google Street ViewGoogle Earth and Wikimapia are tools for mapping out the truth, such as matching up landmarks and landscapes.

So, did your ex really take a trip to Paris, as she stands there with the Eiffel Tower behind her? And is her new beau for real, or was he “shopped” in off of a male fitness model site?

Robert Siciliano is an identity theft expert to discussing identity theft prevention.