The Ultimate Guide to Spotting Fake News

Do you know when something is “fake news?” If you have half a brain, you should. However, when someone in authority makes a claim, the masses who elected that person into that authoritative position, automatically trust what has been said and spread that fake news. That needs to stop. My mother one said believe nothing of what you hear and half of what you see. And today no matter what, don’t automatically believe what you read.

fake newsThere has been a lot of talk about fake news since the 2016 presidential election, and a lot of controversy from those who spread fake stories for the purpose of influencing hearts and minds and of course the outcome of the election. This is dangerous for dozens of reasons, many of which threaten our democracy and in many cases can lead to people getting killed which has happened many times this year.

Keep in mind that not all people who spread or start fake news stories are propagandists, some are thieves and even more are advertisers. Some people just want you to come to their website so they can get clicks and traffic. Advertisers use fake news, as a way to get more clicks. This isn’t really dangerous to you, but someone is getting money because you are clicking on their site.

Other people use fake news, too, including those who want to facilitate identity theft. There are fake news sites that you click on, and then when you visit the site, you get a virus. From there, a hacker can get access to your personal information including your logins and passwords, bank account information, or even your Social Security number.

Here are some things to look out for:

  • Use common sense when looking at fake news stories. If it sounds too sensational, it probably is fake.
  • If a story is an obvious parody, it’s also obviously a fake news story.
  • If you already know some of the facts of the story, and something seems weird about the story you are reading, it’s very possible that the news is fake.
  • Look at the URL where the story is found. If it looks strange, the story is likely fake. For example, if you see a URL ending with “,” it’s a website from Colombia.
  • If there is a photo and the photo looks fake, the story is likely fake, too. But, this isn’t always the case.
  • Don’t just automatically trust.
  • The main stream media has been vilified over the past four years. And while their news is often “biased”, it’s not fake. It’s based on fact, but again those facts may be slanted in favor of the readership. Fake and biased are definitely not the same thing.

Look Closer at the Photos

Many fake news stories have photos that accompany them. Here’s how to test if a realistic photo is accompanying a fake news story.

  • Take a screenshot of the photo, making sure to exclude any graphics that are not relevant.
  • Open Google Images.
  • Upload or drag the screen shot to the search area in Google Images.
  • You will then see information about the “best guess” for the image. If the information doesn’t correlate to the story, you are probably reading a fake news story.

You can use this trick in other ways, too. For instance, if you do online dating, you can see if the person you are talking to is actually who they say they are. If not, they are a faker.

Additionally, you can do this with any image that you have. If the Google Image search gives you information that doesn’t correlate with what you think it does, it is likely a scam. Keep in mind that crooks like identity thieves often steal images and use them as their own.

When you are in doubt, it is always best to do a search on the item to see if other news sources are reporting on it, too. If the only place the story is seen is on a no-name site, you should suspect that it’s fake. If it’s not also being reported by the New York Times or Wall Street Journal, it’s probably fake.

ROBERT SICILIANO CSP, is a #1 Best Selling Amazon author, CEO of, the architect of the CSI Protection certification; a Cyber Social and Identity and Personal Protection security awareness training program.

Fake News is Becoming Too Real

Fake news is a problem that is taking the internet by storm, and it ran rampant during the 2016 Presidential Election. In fact, many believe that fake news stories had a strong impact on the outcome of the election. In a survey following the election by the Pew Research Center, a whopping 64 percent of polled Americans said that fake news has given them a “great deal of confusion” about current events.

12DAll of us have been fooled by fake news, and it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, anytime soon. But, there are some lessons that we can learn from it: Here are five of those lessons:

Fear and the Unknown are Perfect for Fake News

One of the lessons that we can learn from fake news is that any event that causes fear or the unknown is the perfect breeding ground for fake stories. We live in a world where competition for attention is rampant, and headlines are written to make you click. Remember, anyone can write up a fake news story and make it look legitimate, and in many cases, these stories are based on fact. For instance, you might recall the stories of creepy clowns walking through neighborhoods earlier this year, which was actually real news. However, you might also recall that these clowns were going on murdering sprees. This is fake…it never happened, but because these stories appear on legitimate looking sites, people believe it.

Some Stories Fool Us All…

Another lesson to learn about fake news is that some stories are so good or so believable, that they fool us all. You might remember a meme that was shared stating that Donald Trump said that Republicans are the “dumbest group of voters in the country.” Due to the fact that Donald Trump doesn’t exactly keep his views silent and has made a habit of insulting people, most people took this for truth. It wasn’t. He never said it, but many believed it.

Most Fake Stories are Obviously Fake When You Actually Read Them

Most of us are tricked by fake news stories because we never actually read past the headlines. Writers of these stories make sure that these headlines are eye-catching and believable, in addition to viral. When we read a headline of a fake story, we often get the wrong impression of what the story is about. This is on purpose. If you actually click these stories and read them, you will often find that they have a lot of incorrect facts and are poorly written.

No One is Immune From Fake News

You will also find that no one is immune from fake news, and sometimes this news crosses over into the real world. Take the Pokemon Go phenomenon of this summer. There was a fake new story of a man who was stabbed while playing Pokemon Go in a bad neighborhood. However, a few days later, a man really WAS stabbed while playing the game.

There were also fake news stories that Hilary Clinton was given debate questions in advance. It was untrue. However, a few weeks later this actually happened.

Politics is a Huge Factor in Fake News

There is no question that politics are emotional, and this is not just the case in the U.S. It is also similar in Europe. Thus, the emotions of politics helps to make fake news extremely believable.

Many people simply do not trust the mainstream media, so they seek out other news sources. However, these news sources are extremely biased, highly believable, and generally fake.

You have probably noticed that many of these news stories over the past several months have focused on accusing the two Presidential candidates of crimes. There were also many stories about violence between supporters of the opposing parties. The vast majority of these stories were fake, and if you believed them, sorry to say, you were duped.

In our current climate of fear, anger, and hate, the facts are being clouded by emotions, and this is why we are so ready to believe the stories that fall in line with our beliefs. Facebook is not a trustworthy news site. Do your own research, go to trusted sites written by those who are fully researched. You will quickly see that fake stories become transparent once you have the facts.

Robert Siciliano personal security and identity theft expert and speaker is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was Stolen. See him knock’em dead in this identity theft prevention video.

7 Ways to Tell If It’s a Fake

Unfortunately in today’s world, scammers are coming at us from all angles to try and trick us to get us to part with our hard earned money. We all need to be vigilant in protecting ourselves online. If you aren’t paying attention—even if you know what to look for—they can get you.

9DThere are numerous ways to detect fake sites or emails, phishing, etc. Here are 10 you should know about:

  1. Incorrect URL. Hackers use fake sites to steal your information. Watch to make sure the URL is actually the one you want to be going to— if you notice the URL is different, that’s a good indication that the site is fake and you should NOT enter your information. There’s a number of ways you can protect yourself from this:
    1. If you’re on a computer, hover your mouse over the link to see a preview of the link URL in the status bar. Then check to see if the link site matches the site that it should be from. So for example if your email comes from North Bank or you type in North Bank into the Google search bar and the link is not going to but something like you should not click.
    2. If you’re on a mobile device, use a link preview to see the actual URL before you click.
    3. You can also use McAfee® SiteAdvisor® on both your computer and mobile device to make sure the links you are going to are not bad links.
  2. Nosy Requests. Your bank won’t ask via email for your PINs or card information. Be suspicious of sites (or emails) requesting your Social Security number, identification number or other sensitive information.
  3. Sender’s Email Address. You can also check who sent the email by looking at the send address. It may say it’s from North Bank, but the email may be something strange like The sender’s email should not be using a public Internet account like Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo!, etc.
  4. Your Name. A legitimate email from your bank or business will address you by name rather than as “Valued Customer” (or something similar).
  5. Typos. Misspellings or grammatical errors are another sure sign that the message or site is fake.
  6. Fake Password. If you’re at a fake site and type in a phony password, a fake site is likely to accept it.
  7. Low Resolution Images. A tip-off to a false site is poor image quality of the company’s logo or other graphics.

Additionally…Hit delete. How about just hitting the delete button whenever an email comes to you from an unfamiliar sender? After all, if any legitimate entity needs to contact you about something urgent or crucial, they would have your phone number, right? They know your name, too. Remember, “just say no” to opening unfamiliar or suspicious looking emails.

Robert Siciliano is an Online Security Expert to McAfee. He is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Mobile was Hacked!  Disclosures.

How Much for a Fake I.D.?

If you want a Puerto Rican identity, it’s about $6000 for a “tripleta,” which can be used to hide illegal immigrants. Other forms of identification vary in price. A United States passport can range from $950 to $1650 to as much as$5500.

In the U.S., we have as many as 200 different forms of identification circulating, including passports from state to state, plus another 14,000 birth certificates and 49 versions of the Social Security card. These are paper and plastic documents that can be recreated with a PC, scanner, printer, and laminator.

McAfee Avert Labs researcher Francois Paget found and posted an ad showing U.S. identities for $650 each. It’s not incredibly difficult to buy fake IDs online, but will they pass muster with technologies that look for tampering? Unfortunately, many will.

An order form asks all the right questions:

“By placing your order, you must have read and agreed to our Terms of Service.

The order procedure is the following:

1. You send us all the necessary information (depending on the document you want to order). We receive and process your order and give you payment information.
2. You pay 50% upfront money for document(s) producing.
3. We start to produce your document(s). Time constraints are 2-7 days (depending on your order).
4. We send you scan/photos of your ready-made document(s). You check all the details and give us confirmation.
5. You send us the second half of amount and your delivery address. You will receive your document(s) in several days via UPS, FedEx, TNT Express, DHL or EMS (free of charge for you).”

Here in the U.S., we use numerical identifiers that have no physical connection to ourselves. Some documents contain pictures that may not look like us, especially if eye glasses, beards, hair coloring, hair growth, hair removal, or weight fluctuations are involved. Some identification documents don’t include a photo at all. This is not effective authentication. Worldwide, the system isn’t much more secure.

All this makes it easier to steal your identity. Once the bad guy has a few bits of information, he can easily become you.

To ensure peace of mind, subscribe to an identity theft protection service, such as McAfee Identity Protection, which offers proactive identity surveillance, lost wallet protection, and alerts when suspicious activity is detected on your accounts. For additional tips, please visit

Robert Siciliano is a McAfee consultant and identity theft expert. See him discuss Social Security numbers as national identification on Fox News.(Disclosures)

Spies Among Us

The term “spy” conjures ideas about “foreign operatives,” “moles” and James Bond. You might envision forged IDs, fake passports and fraudulently issued government sponsored papers. When spies were recently exposed and caught in the United States, it was kind of surreal for me, since some of them lived right here in Boston.

Back in the day, spies used advanced covert technology, was always a hidden or shrunken version of something more common and accessible. Today, the same technology exists, and it’s cheap and mostly manufactured in China. Lighters, pens, just about any small, seemingly benign object you can think of can contain a video or audio recording device. Tiny flash or thumb drives are capable of storing gigabytes of data.

The eleven Russian spies who were recently nabbed used a lot of the same equipment that you and I use today, including laptops, flash memory cards, and cell phones, but with a twist. One of the spies would set up a laptop in a coffee shop on a regular basis, and the FBI noticed that on Wednesdays, a van driven by an official would go by. The FBI determined that when the van passed the coffee shop, there was a direct exchange of data via their wireless laptops. The discovery was made using commercially available WiFi sniffing technology. Apparently, the data was transferred in this way to avoid detection over the Internet.

The phones the spies used were prepaid mobile phones with no contract, which are often paid for with cash so the user can avoid detection. After a few uses they toss the phone and get a new number to avoid detection.

And the availability of fake identification makes it so easy to pose as someone else. Do an online search for “fake ids” and you’ll be amazed to discover how easy it can be to obtain an ID or passport. Or how easy it can be for someone else to obtain an ID that would allow him or her to pose as you. Some websites peddle poor quality cards, others offer excellent quality, and many websites are simply scams.

The fact is, most of our existing identification systems are insufficiently secure, and our identifying documents are easily copied. Anyone with a computer, scanner, and printer can recreate an ID. Outdated systems exasperate the problem by making it too easy to obtain a real ID at the DMV, with either legitimate or falsified information.

In the end, the spies were caught with a combination of high tech surveillance and gumshoe police work. The Boston Globe reports that in 2005, FBI agents found a password written on a piece of paper while searching the home of one of the spies. This allowed agents to decode more than a hundred messages between the spies and their government.

Unless we effectively identify who is who, using secure documentation, it’s spy business as usual.

Robert Siciliano, personal security expert adviser to Just Ask Gemalto, discusses Spies using fraudulent passports on Fox News. Disclosures

Why We Need Secure Identification

New York police have served warrants dozens of times to an elderly couple looking for suspects the couple has no knowledge of. “Police have knocked on their door 50-plus times since the couple moved into their home in 2002, looking for suspects or witnesses in murder, robbery and rape cases, according to reports. The couple has been visited by law enforcement up to three times a week. Authorities are investigating the possibility that the Martins’ identities may have been stolen.”

Criminal identity theft is when someone commits a crime and uses the assumed name and address of another person. The thief in the act of the crime or upon arrest poses as the identity theft victim. Often the perpetrator will have a fake ID with the identity theft victim’s information but the imposters’ picture. This is the scariest form of identity theft.

In Mexico plans are rolling out to identify  110 million citizens into its national ID card program. “The program will be among the first to capture iris, fingerprint and facial biometrics for identification.  Similar programs around the world use biometrics for voter registration and even financial transactions. Possible uses for the card include  identification, driver licenses, collection of tolls, a travel card and an ATM card.”

In India, they are in the process of creating the Unique Identification Authority to identify their 1.1 billion citizens. A uniform ID system with biometric data, which should launch next year, will be designed to curb fraud and effectively identify their citizens. It could also make many new commercial transactions possible by allowing online verification of identities by laptop and mobile phone.

In the US, in order to end illegal immigration politicians have proposed a worker identity card and quoted from the New American “Ending Illegal Employment Through Biometric Employment Verification,” Reid, et al, set forth their chilling scheme to require all Americans to carry a 21st Century version of the Social Security Card. The national identification card will be embedded with biometric data detectable by federal agents. Specifically, the Reid plan will mandate that within 18 months of the passage of immigration reform legislation, every American worker carry the “fraud-resistant, tamper-resistant, wear resistant, and machine-readable social security cards containing a photograph and an electronically coded micro-processing chip which possesses a unique biometric identifier for the authorized card-bearer.”As if that isn’t enough to freeze the blood of any ally of freedom and our constitutional republic.”

“Chilling scheme” and “freeze the blood” or a step towards security? I wonder if the couple in New York or the millions who have had their identity stolen wish they were properly identified.

Invest in Intelius identity theft protection and prevention. Not all forms of identity theft can be prevented, but identity theft protection services can dramatically reduce your risk. (Disclosures)

Robert Siciliano Identity Theft Speaker discussing the Social Security numbers on Fox News.

The $10,000 Fake ID

Robert Siciliano Identity Theft Expert

When I was 17, my friend “Baldo,” as he was known by all, was the Fake ID Master. He also fixed TV’s and still does today. But he didn’t actually create “fake IDs,” he altered real ones. The technology he used back then is still used today. It’s called Crayola Crayons. He would take a Massachusetts ID and heat the laminate over the stove and peel it back. Then he’d dab a premixed batch of liquid aqua green/blue crayon on the left side of an 8 to make it a 3. He’d bust out his heating iron and some wax paper and seal up the laminate. Then a 17-year-old became 22, using the same technology my 1 year old eats. Packy run, anyone?

Today is a little different. It’s not so easy to peel back the laminate. Most cards today are treated plastics: PVC, styrene, polypropylene, direct thermal, and teslin hybrids. However, while all that sounds technically challenging, it’s really not. Some of the do-it-yourself ID making machines are the size of a shoebox. It is however a tad more complicated than that. Sure you can go to your local office supply and buy ID making materials or simply buy fake IDs online, but will they pass the muster when put in front of numerous technologies that look for tampering?

That’s where the $10,000 fake ID comes in. In New York, authorities busted an identity theft ring and charged 22 people with selling driver’s licenses and other identification documents.

Among those implicated in the ring are two New York State Department of Motor Vehicles employees, who are believed to have earned over a $1 million dollars issuing more than 200 licenses and other documents over the past three years. The alleged ring leader of the group was identified as Wilch Dewalt, also known as “Sharrief Sabazz” Muhammad’ and “License Man.” Authorities say he acted as a broker who, in exchange for a fee of between $7,000 and $10,000, served as a one-stop shop for fraudulent documents.

In this case, the clients who were dropping 10G on IDs were people who were hiding from the law in plain sight, including felons, a drug dealer whose claim to fame was once a cameo on “America’s Most Wanted,” and someone from the government’s No Fly List. These were people that: A) could afford it and, B) needed the best of the best in real fake identification.

In the meantime, identity theft is again the top 2009 consumer complaint, the FTC reports. The number of American identity fraud victims rose 12% last year to 11.1 million, with losses hitting $54 billion, according to an annual report from Javelin Strategy & Research.

Protect your financial identity.

1. Get a credit freeze and follow the steps for your particular state. This is an absolutely necessary tool to secure your credit. In most cases, it prevents new accounts from being opened in your name. This makes your Social Security number useless to a potential identity thief.

2. Invest in anti-virus and keep it auto-updated and check out my spyware killer IDTheftSecurty HERE

3. With your iPhone get my book as an App or go to my website and get my FREE ebook on how to protect yourself from the bad guy.

4. Invest in Intelius identity theft protection and prevention. Not all forms of identity theft can be prevented, but identity theft protection services can dramatically reduce your risk. (Disclosures)

How to Hack a Corporate Network…with Facebook

Robert Siciliano Identity Theft Expert

There’s a lot of excessive trust in the Facebook world. People have entirely dropped their sense of cynicism when logged on. They have no reason to distrust. People who are your “Friends” are generally those who you “know, like and trust”. In this world, your guard is as down as it will ever be. You are in the safety of your own home or office hanging with people all over the world in big cities and little towns and never have to watch your back.

Ethical hackers are the tech industries white nights, also known as “white hat hackers”. Steve Stasiukonis from Secure Network Technologies is such a person. He’s hired by by companies CIO’s to penetrate an organizations network to determine where its vulnerabilities are.

The process of a white hat starts with a permission based hack that often leads to results that make the CIO nauseous. Getting the data may mean hacking a wireless connection, hacking a public facing website, or even going through a skylight after hours. In Dark Reading Steve writes about how he did it with a fake badge and a Facebook profile. This is a perfect example of how vulnerable people make themselves and their corporate networks because of what they post to Facebook.

We started the project by scouring all of the social networking sites for employees of our target company. Not surprisingly, we found numerous people who openly discussed what they did for a living. We also found numerous employees who openly discussed disappointment in their employer.

We perused popular social networking site like MySpace, LinkedIn, and Plaxo, and ended up focusing on The majority of our customer’s employees were using Facebook, so we created a Facebook group site identified as “Employees of” the company. Using a fictitious identity, we then proceeded to “friend,” or invite, employees to our “company” Facebook site. Membership grew exponentially each day.

By creating a group, they were able to get access to employees profiles. The “group” is a place where those who you know, like and trust are your “Friends” and in this case fellow employees who you have no reason to distrust.

Because our assignment required us to compromise a secured facility, we chose to use the identity of one of our Facebook-friended employees to gain access to the building.

Because of the companies size they were able to recreate the identity of an employee that wasn’t known to the branch office to which they breached. But his name was still in the system. So with a little creativity, a fake business card and enough information gleaned off of Facebook, they were able to re-create their man.

On the day we intended to breach the facility, our guy was dressed with a shirt embroidered with our client’s logo, and armed him with business cards, a fake company badge, and his laptop. Upon entering the building, he was immediately greeted by reception. Our man quickly displayed his fake credentials and immediately began ranting about the perils of his journey and how important it was for him to get a place to check his email and use a restroom. Within in seconds, he was provided a place to sit, connection to the Internet, and a 24×7 card access key to the building.

Later that evening, he returned to the empty office building to conduct a late-night hacking session. Within a short period of time, he had accessed the company’s sensitive secrets.

Awesome. This is a perfect example of why Facebook is a nightmare to the corporate CIO. I don’t share that trust that most people have in Facebook. I’m all business on Facebook. I’m not all that friendly. Kind of a stiff. I’m also a security professional, not so trusting. So to my “Friends” (the actual 10 out of the 400 that I have) I apologize to all. I’m just not ready to share my daily routine with everyone just yet. If ever.

People often try to “friend” me, and I can see that they are “friends” with people I know. But I don’t know them. And the mutual friends often tell me that they don’t know the person, but were “friends” with someone else they knew, and they accepted based on that! That’s nuts! Next thing you know, they are trolling through your “friends” and befriending people in your network, who accept based on their trust in you! Dizzy yet? The point is, stop the madness! Don’t allow these trolls into your life. Mom told you not to talk to strangers. I’m telling you not to “friend” strangers, because they could be scammers.

Scammers are watching. They know that once you are on Facebook, your guard goes way down.

  1. Get a credit freeze. Go to and follow the steps for your particular state. This is an absolutely necessary tool to secure your credit. In most cases, it prevents new accounts from being opened in your name. This makes your Social Security number useless to a potential identity thief.
  2. Invest in Intelius identity theft protection and prevention. Not all forms of identity theft protection can be prevented, but identity theft protection services can dramatically reduce your risk. (Disclosures)

Robert Siciliano Identity Theft Speaker discussing Facebook hacking on CNN

Identity Theft Expert; Fake IDs are as easy as 1,2,3

Robert Siciliano Identity Theft Expert

Do an online search for “fake ids” and you’ll be amazed to discover how easy it can be to obtain an ID allowing you to pose as someone else. Or how easy it can be for someone else to obtain an ID that will allow him or her to pose as you. Some websites peddle poor quality cards, others offer excellent quality, and many websites are simply scams.

The fact is, our existing identification systems are insufficiently secure, and our identifying documents are easily copied. Anyone with a computer, scanner and printer can recreate an ID. Outdated systems exasperate the problem by making it too easy to obtain a real ID at the DMV, with either legitimate or falsified information.

Another glitch is the potential for individuals to completely alter their appearances. Men with facial hair can wreak havoc on the current system. This is sometimes done as a prank. In other cases, the individual is attempting to subvert the system to maintain a degree of anonymity. New technologies, such as facial recognition, should eventually resolve some of these problems, but they are still years away from being fully implemented.

In Indianapolis, Indiana, a man was able to obtain six different IDs. He accomplished this by visiting various different registries throughout the state and using borrowed names and stolen information. He obtained job applicant data from a failed body shop business he had owned. He used the false identities to open checking accounts at multiple banks and write fraudulent checks to himself.  He was caught while applying for his seventh ID, thanks to facial recognition software. But it is disturbing to know that he was able to acquire six different identities, all stolen from real people, without detection. It was a bank employee who eventually noticed that he had two different bank accounts under two different names. If the man hadn’t been so greedy, he would have gotten away with it.

In Indianapolis and other registries the daily photos are compared to millions of others already on file. The system constantly scans the data and presents cases that might match, requiring further investigation by registry employees.

Some of the requirements of improving facial recognition include not smiling for your picture or smile as long as you keep your lips together. Other requirements meant to aid the facial recognition software include keeping your head upright (not tilted), not wearing eyeglasses in the photo, not wearing head coverings, and keeping your hair from obscuring your forehead, eyebrows, eyes, or ears.

The fact is, identity theft is a big problem due to a systematic lack of effective identification and is going to continue to be a problem until further notice. In the meantime it is up to you to protect yourself. The best defense from new account fraud is identity theft protection.

1. Get a credit freeze. Go online now and search “credit freeze” or “security freeze” and go to and follow the steps for the state you live in. This is an absolutely necessary tool to secure your credit. In most cases it prevents new accounts from being opened in your name.

2. Invest in Intelius Identity Protect. While not all forms of identity theft can be prevented, you can effectively manage your personal identifying information by knowing what’s buzzing out there in regards to YOU.

Personal Identity Profile – Find out if you’re at risk for identity theft with a detailed report of your identity information, including a current credit report, address history, aliases, and more.

24/7 Identity Monitoring and Alerts – Prevent identity theft with automatic monitoring that scans billions of public records daily and alerts you to suspicious activity.

Identity Recovery Assistance – Let professionals help you recover your identity if you ever become a victim of identity theft.

Robert Siciliano Identity Theft Speaker discussing identity theft