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How blockchain will kill fake news (and four other predictions for 2020)

As blockchain’s hype cycle continues to befuddle many about its potential beyond  cryptocurrencies, businesses and governments are moving ahead with projects involving everything from digital identities to voting and supply chain tracking.

Blockchain has slipped into the “Trough of Disillusionment” (see Gartner Hype Cycle), because it got ahead of its technical and operational maturity. As a result, interest has waned as most experiments and implementations failed to provide expected results.

In most cases, the distributed ledger technology (DLT) has not lived up to expectations that it would drive new societal and business models. And with exception of a few shipping-related projects, most enterprise efforts remain stuck in experimentation mode.

The technology, however, is far from a failure; its promise to deliver a single version of data truth over a secure, distributed and immutable ledger remains compelling and as it matures, many see it becoming a ubiquitous platform for financial services, ecommerce and other markets.

By 2023, blockchain is expected to climb out of the hype cycle. And over the next five years industry experts and analysts agree it will expand into a number of pragmatic use cases in payment processing, data sharing, equity trading and contract/document keeping and tracking.

Defeating fake news

One of the more unique future uses for blockhain may be thwarting fake news, according to a recent report from Gartner.

By 2023, up to 30% of world news and video content will be authenticated as real by blockchain ledgers, countering “Deep Fake technology,” according to Avivah Litan, a Gartner vice president of research and co-author of the “Predicts 2020: Blockchain Technology” report.

Fueled by social media news feeds such as Facebook and Google News, fake news is increasingly used by hostile governments to manipulate elections.

Articles and other content based on false information often attracts more viewers than factual news – a benefit to advertisers and ratings, but a problem for public discourse. For example, the top 20 fake news stories about the 2016 U.S. presidential election received more engagement on Facebook than the top 20 election stories from 19 major media outlets, according to one study.

Websites that spread fake news using bot-controlled accounts are usually hosted anonymously, making it extremely difficult to prosecute the perpetraitors.

“AI models that support text writing and video production can be used to rapidly disseminate customized and highly believable fake content that serves as the new breed of cyber weapons,” Litan said in the study. “Tracking assets and proving provenance are two key successful use cases for permissioned blockchain and can be readily applied to tracking the provenance of news content.”

In August, the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) began developing software that can discover fake news hidden among more than 500,000 stories, photos, video and audio clips. And in September, Facebook formed an industry group to develop deep fake video detection tools. Facebook’s Partnership on AI includes Microsoft Amazon, Google, DeepMind, and IBM, as well as academics from Oxford, MIT, Cornell Tech, UC Berkeley and other schools.

If successful, the efforts by DARPA, Facebook and others will “blacklist” fake content to block it from reaching target victims and create an algorithm that authenticates and tracks content movement to “whitelists,” ensuring its provenance.

“Blockchain technology is proven to excel at supporting this use case as it enables a ‘shared single version of truth’ across multiple entities based on immutable data and audit trails,” Litan wrote.

The New York Times is one of the first major news publications to test blockchain to authenticate news photographs and video content, according to Gartner. The newspaper’s Research and Development team and IBM have partnered on the News Provenance Project, which uses Hyperledger Fabric’s permissioned blockchain to store “contextual metadata.” That metadata includes when and where a photo or video was shot, who took it and how and when it was edited and published.

Blockchain, the newspaper explained, will act as a “database that is not housed on one set of servers owned and operated by one entity, but by many entities and servers that are kept updated simultaneously” making the records of each change traceable.

“Files are not so much changed as built upon,” former Times editor and independent consultant Sasha Koren said in a blog.

Blockchain for digital securities exchanges

For the same reason cross-border financial transactions are simpler and cheaper than traditional methods run by central banks, digital securities traded across blockchain ledgers are also likely to become popular in the near future.

“So far, the primary use case is money, led by Bitcoin,” said Bruce Fenton, founder and managing director of Atlantic Financial and a board member of the Bitcoin Foundation.

Today, securities settlement is performed by central, private organizations such as Depository Trust and Clearance Corp. (DTCC) in the U.S. and Euroclear in the European Union. The process of moving stocks and bonds between buyers and sellers can take as long as three days, but delays aren’t uncommon and the actual transfer among financial services firms can take 10 days or more, according to Fenton.

“The challenge with securities now is you need a trusted third party to say what’s true,” Fenton said. “It’s not your broker. It’s not Merrill Lynch or Fidelity and it’s not the issuer either; Apple has no clue who their shareholders are either. The function is performed by these large centralized groups because the brokers don’t necessarily trust each other; they’re dealing with their competitors.”

The problem with central settlement organizations is that transactions become bottlenecked through the use of a single ledger. With blockchain, trust becomes moot as digital tokens representing securities or money are inextricably linked to the funds or securities – and transfers can take place in a day or even hours, Fenton said.

Blockchain could also change how corporate public offerings are done. Many private companies forgo a public offering because of the complexity of the process. With blockchain ledgers, securities linked to digital tokens could move more easily between financial institutions by simply bypassing a central clearance organization.

“Just as you can move [Bitcoin] between one crypto account to another, you could move millions of dollars between crypto exchanges in less than a day,” Fenton said. “If that happens, then it’s exciting because you end up in a world where [there are] a lot more companies that are traded and changing hands. You could have a lot of things that are private now be public and be able to trade shares between investors and between borders.”

One potential problem with blockchain-based securities exchanges is performance; the distributed ledger has proven to be slow, and potentially costly. But new consensus algorithms and off-chain processing promise to speed up throughput by orders of magnitude.

China likely to take the blockchain lead, leave the U.S. in the rearview

The Chinese government recently announced a new focus on blockchains for commerce, a move likely to influence global development and spending. President Xi Jinping in October stressed that the country would have a blockchain-focused strategy; the decision affects Chinese government initiatives, regulations and spending by various regional governments.

Conversely, U.S. and European regulators have made no bones about their cautious, if not adversarial, approach to blockchain and the digital tokens moved across distributed ledgers. Additionally, the U.S. and Europe have well “developed and mature” world economies, so any large-scale move to embrace blockchain could be disruptive.

Because the initiatives in China are top down, they affect not only spending by the single largest entity (the government), but also native business interests who want to remain in good graces, Fenton said.

“Private businesses might choose to implement this technology or in some cases will need to, in order to remain competitive,” Fenton said. “When you have the leader of the country saying they’re going to invest in something, I think you’ll see a lot more of the public and private sector leaders in China and, ultimately, around the world reacting to that. 

“Unfortunately, the U.S. is getting left behind in many areas because of its slow regulatory regime.”

As regulators continue to struggle to provide clear guidance to crypto- and blockchain-based industries, collaboration will continue to occur among companies seeking to self-regulate, according to Katherine Johnson, vice president of compliance and general counsel for Storj Labs. Storj Labs is a cloud storage provider whose technology is based on blockchain.

For example, the Crypto Ratings Council hopes to to rank digital assets on the likelihood of being deemed a security versus a utility token, or a service that can represent API keys that unlock a service (essentially, selling a service using the tokens).

“U.S.-based companies will continue to mitigate the risk posed by the uncertain domestic regulatory landscape by branching out into crypto- and blockchain-friendly jurisdictions,” Johnson said in a statement.

Jonathan Johnson, president of CEO of Overstock.com and its investment arm Medici Ventures, agreed, saying via email that “innovation-friendly jurisdictions (i.e., not the U.S.) will begin to see efficiencies, trust, and transparency in government services as blockchain-based products begin to leave the lab and gain wider adoption.”

Blockchain for identity

Enterprises who’ve dipped their toes into the blockchain ecosystem still aren’t ready to dive in. Skepticism remains, hindering adoption in a meaningful way, according to Ken Elefant, managing director of investment firm Sorenson Capital.

Elefant calls blockchain a “phenomenal technology” that will change industries, but its adoption will be slow because it can’t happen in a vacuum; it will require a shared ecosystem among enterprises; one company can’t simply adopt it and expect returns on its investment without others climbing onboard.

Blockchain will more quickly take root in financial services for security and management of identities – first for businesses and later for consumers. “Identity today is really difficult to manage across the entire ecosystem,” Elefant said.

“Where I think blockchain should be used is in areas where there’s a middleman for know your customer [KYC] applications, anti-money laundering [AML] apps or counterpart reconciliation and other areas where traditional rules-based systems are very manual,” Elefant continued. “There’s huge ROI in those areas.”

Enabling full digital ID coverage could unlock economic value worth anywhere from  3% to 13% of GDP in 2030 in seven key countries – if the digital ID program enables multiple high-value use cases and sees widespread adoption, according to a report by consultancy McKinsey & Company. The seven countries are: Brazil, China, Ethiopia, India, Nigeria, the United Kingdom and the U.S.

The online credentials would be akin to identify information a person might have in his or her wallet: a driver’s license, a bank debit card or a company ID. Instead of a physical card, however, the IDs in digital wallets would be encrypted on a blockchain ledger and link back to the institutions that created them, such as a bank, a government agency or even an employer. Through blockchain and a smart contract, the digital information could automatically verify information to a requestor.

“Think of the [blockchain] distributed ledger as a database and only the individuals or companies authorized have access to that data – unlike the internet today where you and I can be marketed to by anybody,” Elefant said. “That’s the beauty of blockchain. It’s pre-certified and the only entity that has control over their ID is that identity itself.”

Additonally, fintech firms, software makers, telecom providers and other businesses have joined forces to develop blockchain-based networks that will enable anyone to exchange digital credentials online without the risk of unintentionally exposing private data. One consortium is the Sovrin Foundation, a nonprofit organization now developing the Sovrin Network, which could enable anyone to globally exchange pre-verified data with any entity also on the network.

When a business wants to transact with a bank or some other business on the network, they’ll be pre-certified to do so, whether for wire transfers between businesses or cross-border exchanges.

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How to Avoid Fake Ads Disguised as Fake Download Links

While ads are a necessary part of the internet, not all advertisements are created equal. One of the most common kinds of fake ads are “download” buttons that don’t lead to the software you were looking for.

These ads masquerading as download buttons are a huge pain. Let’s look at why they exist, how to spot them, and how to avoid the ads.

Why Do Fake Download Button Ads Exist?

You might wonder where these fake download ads come from in the first place. They almost never lead to anything helpful—instead, they bring you to malware, junky software, or phishing sites. So why are they so prevalent?

The answer, unfortunately, is that their deception works. It’s difficult to get users to click on ads most of the time, since most people have become better at recognizing them. But when you’re already looking for a download link or button, you’re more likely to fall for a fake one.

Additionally, someone falling for these is a good indicator that they’ll be prone to future scams.

Why These Ads Keep Appearing

So we know why scammers love these ads, but why do websites allow them? In many cases, it’s because they can’t get many other advertisers. Reputable companies aren’t exactly jumping to show their ads on sites like torrent trackers and file-sharing services, especially because they’re often associated with illegal activity.

These websites have to pay their bills somehow, so they go with these ads and apparently don’t mind the implications to less tech-savvy users.

Despite all this, you’ll still occasionally see fake download ads appear on mainstream sites like MakeUseOf. We don’t want or allow them, but they show up anyway. Though most of our ads come from Google, we don’t have the ability to approve what ads appear on the site ahead of time.

Bad actors constantly play whack-a-mole with Google and webmasters, trying to get their fake ads through the system. Websites report the ads when they appear; Google blocks these companies from creating more ads, but new ones still pop up all the time.

How to Spot Fake Download Ads

FileHippo Download Page

As long as these ads keep getting through the system, you should know what one looks like when you see it. This will keep you safe and make sure you only use actual download links.

As a general rule, most legitimate sites do not use giant Download buttons. You’ll usually find the real download link as a link in text form, such as the download links at the bottom of sections in MakeUseOf articles. However, many dedicated software download sites do use a similar green button for downloads, making it harder to tell.

A huge giveaway that you’re looking at a fake download button is the AdChoices logo in the top-right corner. This is a regulatory program that many advertisers are part of, which calls for certain principles in ads.

If you see this icon, it’s quite likely a Google ad, meaning it’s not a real download. When you spot one, you should click the X icon. This allows you to report the ad and lets the service know you don’t want to see it again.

In addition, ads are sometimes marked clearly with Advertisement next to them, which is another telltale sign.

Testing the URL

Fake Download Button on Page

Another way to tell if a download link is genuine is by hovering over it. Every major browser will show you a little tooltip with the destination URL of the link. If you see googleads or something similar at the start, it is not a valid download link. Typically, genuine links are relatively short and have the software’s name in them.

If you’re really not sure, you can use a web service to see if the link is safe

7 Quick Sites That Let You Check If a Link Is Safe

7 Quick Sites That Let You Check If a Link Is Safe

Before clicking a link, use these link checkers to check that it doesn’t lead to malware or other security threats.
Read More

, then click the button to test it if it seems safe to proceed. Pay attention to what happens next—does it start a file download? If so, look at the file name and extension.

Windows software is most often packaged as an EXE or ZIP file. Mac programs are usually in DMG or ZIP format (though you can find a good bit of Mac software on the safe App Store). In both cases, the downloaded installer should have the name of the program you’re looking for. Files with generic names like AppDownloader.exe will typically bundle in extra garbage.

Should you see a load of additional ads or a completely unrelated website when you click a button, get out. That’s not the site you’re looking for. And if you’re really not sure whether the file you downloaded is trustworthy, scan it with your antivirus. You may also want to get a second opinion using Malwarebytes or a web scanner like VirusTotal.

Download From Safe Sites Instead

Now you should know how to identify fake downloads when you see them. This will come in handy when using filesharing sites, where you often don’t have another option for downloading what you’re after.

But in many cases, it’s possible to bypass the above concerns and avoid ads meant to trick you. You simply need to download from a reputable service.

If you’re looking to install a well-known program, one of the best places to do so is through the official website. This is much less likely to have fake download buttons (and any bundled junk) than random redistributors. Simply Googling “download [app]” will provide a box linking to the official page in many cases.

Google Download Firefox Link

Otherwise, take a look at our list of the safest sites for installing Windows software

The Safest Free Software Download Sites for Windows

The Safest Free Software Download Sites for Windows

Many software download sites are loaded with malware. We compiled websites you can trust when you need a free software download.
Read More

. These will let you grab popular apps without having to worry about clicking on fake ads. Likewise, make sure you stay away from dangerous software download services.

Avoiding Fake Downloads Is Crucial

As long as these fake ads remain profitable for scammers, we’ll probably never see the end of them. In most cases, you should avoid download from sites with loads of fake ads if you can, because they’re probably not trustworthy. Whether by using a more reliable site or cutting through the deception, these tips will help you dodge the fakes.

Counterfeit download buttons aren’t the only shams to watch out for online. See our guide to spotting other online fakes

How to Spot 7 Online Fakes Used by Scammers

How to Spot 7 Online Fakes Used by Scammers

You can’t trust everything you see online. Here are seven commonly faked elements online and some advice for identifying them.
Read More

so you’re prepared for anything.

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5 Smart News Apps to Help You Avoid Fake News With More Trustworthy Reports

The internet has turned anyone and everyone into a news reporter. This has led to a rise in fake news, and the availability of more news than you need. Not everyone can be an expert on how to spot fake news. And sometimes you don’t even know what you should be reading.

One solution is the use of reliable journalists, passionate communities, big data, and artificial intelligence (AI).

Here are a few developers and their smart apps that have made the news simple again.

1. Listle (Android, iOS): Listen to News Articles Read Aloud

You can’t read the news while you’re driving, so Listle is here to fix that. Enjoy text articles turned into short audio pieces by real humans and not AI.

Listle curates articles from top sources like CNN, Vox, The Guardian, and others. Browse through the headlines, along with the audio file’s runtime and the genre or category. You can start listening to the article immediately or add it to your playlist. Try some of the pre-made playlists too. The “read-aloud” news is perfect when you’re driving or suffering a crowded commute with your headphones on.

Apart from the articles already shown in Listle, you can also convert any text article into an audio file. Copy-paste the link to the article and the app will use its AI to create an audio file. You can convert one link per day in the free account, and listen to three total articles. If you like the experience, buy the premium account.

Download: Listle for Android | iOS (Free)

2. OwlFactor (Web): Reliable, Fact-Checked News

Get reliable, fact-checked news with different political bias at OwlFactor

OwlFactor is trying its hardest to battle the scourge of fake news and bad reportage on the internet. After releasing CivikOwl, one of the smartest apps to simplify important news

5 Smarter News Apps to Simplify How You Read Important News

5 Smarter News Apps to Simplify How You Read Important News

The way we read news has changed. Here are some useful new apps for a smarter way to read the news.
Read More

, it has now launched a mini website for all your news needs.

Elon Musk once said news articles should be rated for accuracy and biases. OwlFactor picked up this idea. Here, you can set your political leaning, find under-reported topics or those with the most coverage, and choose a grade for the article. These grades are based on several factors like quality of sources, opinionated tone, author and outlet credibility, etc.

Once put together, OwlFactor can become your favorite news aggregator because of how it makes you think about which news you want to read. Topics and articles are easy to browse, and you can even sign up for a daily newsletter with the most credible stories. Use the iPhone version now, but Android users will have to use the website until the app is released.

Download: OwlFactor for iOS (Free)

3. Credder (Web): Trustworthiness as Rated by Other Journalists

Credder gets journalists to rate the trustworthiness of any news article

In the age of fake news and easy propaganda, trustworthiness is key. A group of frustrated consumers created Credder to address this problem, by asking journalists to rate the trustworthiness of every article, author, and news outlet.

In function, the website is for news like what Rotten Tomatoes is for movies. Credder has its own list of critics, who are journalists and other reputed individuals. The critics’ reaction to an article (which you can see through their attached tweets) determines its trustworthiness on a scale of 1 to 100.

If an article isn’t rated, it displays the author’s or outlet’s Credder rating. You can check out the leaderboard for author and outlet trustworthiness. After registering, you can also submit articles to be rated by critics.

Through this system, you can use Credder as an aggregator for the news. Along with a standard news website design, the main page has categories for world news, U.S. news, politics, business, tech, media, science, and culture.

4. Medius News (Web): Neutral News From Reputed Publications

Medius News aggregates news articles from neutral outlets based on Ad Fontes Media's Media Bias chart

Andrew Ghobrial was tired of news that was less about information and more about opinion, which is a growing trend in today’s media. So he decided to do something about it and built Medius News to track neutral, information-based news in one place.

This news aggregator uses Ad Fontes Media’s Media Bias chart, which assigns a rating to all major news publications based on original reporting and how factual it is. The chart shows which news reporters focus on analysis and opinion more than just information, as well as those with clear propaganda or misleading data.

By focusing on original fact-based reporting, Medius News is for those who want news as information, and prefer making up their own minds about what they think about it and how they feel. Right now, the site delivers general news, business, sports, and health, with nine articles in each section, updated regularly.

5. Trimmed News (Android, iOS): News Summaries in Stories Format

Trimmed News is using artificial intelligence to tackle multiple problems with the news today. The aim is to build a news-reading app for today’s youth, in a format that is more appealing to mobile users who like snack-sized news bites.

With any news item, the AI tracks reportage about it from multiple sources, such as Reuters, The Guardian, CNN, Fox News, etc. The AI then analyzes and summarizes the article to give you only the information you need.

The new article is presented in the format of a social media story, i.e. using short slides that you swipe to read. It’s actually pretty fun and I found myself enjoying this style of reading news more than a regular article. There are also features like group chat and submitting your news, but forget about those and just use the app to read the news.

Download: Trimmed News for Android | iOS (Free)

Check Alternative News Sources

One of the culprits in the rise of fake news is Google. In its quest to be a neutral platform for discovering websites, the search engine and its Google News off-shoot aren’t running fact-checks. And shady publishers have figured out how to game the system and trick Google into pushing their name higher in the results.

Even with some recent changes to tackle the scourge of fake news and earn some credibility, Google has not yet figured out a foolproof plan to tackle the problem. Hopefully, the above apps should help you move away to a better source of news. If not, try these other Google News alternatives

5 Google News Alternatives That’ll Change How You Read News

5 Google News Alternatives That’ll Change How You Read News

Google News is a popular way to stay on top of what’s happening around the world. But for something less biased, check out these Google News alternatives.
Read More

to get your news fix.

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Fake Samsung Updates App Had 10 Million Installs

A fraudulent app called “Updates for Samsung” promised to help users install the latest firmware updates for their Samsung phones. In reality, it redirected users to an ad-filled site and tricked them into purchasing an expensive subscription.

Android updates can be a mess, and that’s mostly the manufacturer’s fault. If you want guaranteed timely updates, your best bet is to buy a Pixel phone. Unfortunately, some bad actors took advantage of how obtuse updating a Samsung phone can be and released an app called “Updates for Samsung” promising to make updates easier.

The app in question didn’t truly fulfill the “convenient and easy” promise. When opened, the app redirects users to an ad-filled site that did have Samsung firmware download links. But you have to dig past a bucket load of ads, and hope the free download link it offered didn’t crash.

When malware analyst Aleksejs Kuprins dug into the code, he discovered the app throttled its free download options to 56 KBps, and in testing generally crashed before completing. “Updates for Samsung” offered a $35 premium subscription that removed those limitations for a successful fast download.

Even the subscription process was suspect, as it didn’t use Google’s payment system, in violation of Play Store rules. Thankfully, after reporting this information to Google, the app has been removed from the Play Store. It’s just a shame it took 10,000 installs and an outside party noticing the problem for Google to put a stop to this abuse of unsuspecting users. [ZDNet]

RELATED: Fragmentation Isn’t Android’s Fault, It’s the Manufacturers’

In Other News:

  • Tesla promises a free upgrade to new self-driving chips in older cars: Telsa unveiled a new “self-driving” chip made in-house that it promised had all the power necessary to make self-driving possible. The problem? Older Tesla models don’t have it, and people already paid for the self-driving add-on. The company promised that anyone who did pay for the self-driving option would get a free hardware upgrade. [The Verge]
  • Amazon asks FCC for permission to launch satellites: Amazon wants to provide nationwide broadband and thinks it can accomplish that with 3,236 satellites. Dubbed “Project Kuiper” the company behemoth is taking the next step towards that end goal: asking permission to launch. If this story sounds familiar, that’s likely because SpaceX just launched satellites for the same purpose. [GeekWire]
  • The latest Windows 10 update may cause color issues: Some users have noticed that after taking the Windows 10 May 2019 Update, colors no longer display correctly on their monitor. Microsoft says it issued a fix, but users continue to complain even after updating. Here’s hoping Microsoft completely solves the issue soon. [TechRadar]
  • HQ Trivia laid off staff, and is moving to a subscription model: If you forgot all about HQ Trivia, don’t feel bad. So did everyone else. And that’s the problem. HQ Trivia, once the app everyone had to have, is old news and the world moved on.  As such the company laid off some of its staff and is trying to pivot to a new game with a subscription. At $10 a month, we don’t have high hopes for a giant turnaround. [TechCrunch]
  • Firefox begins beta tests for $5 ad-free news: Getting the news online is a balance of choices. You may not like ads, but ads support the companies that bring you the news. Firefox, like Apple News+ before it, thinks it has an equitable solution. Pay $5 a month to skip the ads. Part of that subscription goes to Mozilla, the other part to the sites you read. [International Business Times]
  • MovePass shuts down its app temporarily: Moviepass, the beleaguered movie subscription service, has more bad news. The company is shutting down its app and services for an unspecified time. It promises to return, and that not to charge users while the app down. The company says this is necessary for app updates. Subscribers can only hope it didn’t just run out of money again. [MarketWatch]
  • Apple testing FaceID and TouchID sign-in for iCloud.com: If you’re using the betas for iOS13 or MacOS 13, you can try a new sign in option for iCloud. Instead of plugging in your password manually (or using your password manager to take care of it), you can use FaceID or TouchID to sign in (depending on your hardware). Likely a precursor to “Sign in With Apple” the process sounds incredibly convenient while maintaining security. [9to5Mac]

Lightsail 2 is an incredibly exciting and unique satellite. First up in its unique credentials, crowdfunding helped bring the spacecraft to life.

You also won’t find a traditional means of propulsion in the satellite. Instead, as the name suggests, the LightSail 2 will soon unfurl a broad set of sails (which double as a solar charger) and use the impact of photons to move.

The first Lightsail had a rocky launch. Contact was lost multiple times before operators finally managed to get the sail to unfurl. This time around is going much more smoothly, and the researchers believe they’ll achieve much greater maneuverability than the original satellite.

If you want to keep track of LightSail 2’s progress, the Planetary Society (the team behind the project) published a mission control site with up to date progress information, telemetry, and more.

Ultimately the goal is to prove solar power is a viable method to power small satellites. [SlashGear]

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How to Report a Fake Business Listing on Google Maps

Google Maps showing Googleplex location

The Wall Street Journal reports that Google Maps is overrun with fake business listings created by scammers, and Google says it removed more than 3 million of them in 2018. Here’s how to report any fake businesses you see.

We’ve done this before when we noticed a nearby business listing was fake and didn’t match a real business in its location. The fake business listing vanished immediately after we reported it. By reporting any scams you see, you’ll be doing everyone who uses Google Maps a big favor.

To report a listing, locate and select the business listing in Google Maps. Click or tap the “Suggest an Edit” button.

Suggest an Edit button in Google Maps

Select “Remove this place” to tell Google the listing should be removed from Google Maps. If you’re not signed into a Google account, you’ll be prompted to log in before you continue.

(If a scammer has taken over a real business listing with a fake phone number or website, you should instead select “Change name or other details” and provide the business’s real details.)

Option to remove a listing from Google Maps

Provide a reason for the removal—this is technically optional, but it will tell Google why the business should be removed. For example, you can select “Doesn’t exist” or “Spam, fake, or offensive” if the business is a fake listing or a scam.

You can also add a photo of the location, and Google can use this to verify the business doesn’t exist. However, we’ve never done this when reporting obvious scam businesses. If the scam isn’t entirely obvious, you can make your report stronger by taking a photo of that location.

Select “Send” to send your report. Google will get back to you via email.

Reporting that a business doesn't exist in Google Maps

The “Suggest and Edit” feature can be used for other reasons, too. You can tell Google a business has moved or closed, change its name, update its hours, or provide a new website address.

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Fake LinkedIn Profiles Are Impossible to Detect

Man in a suit, holding a tablet with LinkedIn logo over his face.

Don’t trust everything you see on LinkedIn. We created a fake LinkedIn profile with a fake job at a real company. Our fake profile garnered the attention of a Google recruiter and gained over 170 connections and 100 skill endorsements.

Everyone is talking about fake accounts on Facebook and fake followers on Twitter. LinkedIn hasn’t been part of the conversation, but Microsoft’s social network also has a big problem.

LinkedIn Doesn’t Verify Anything

Linkedin profile of our "John" showing 177 connections and an HP job listing.
John’s profile looks great. There’s only one problem: He isn’t real.

We created a fake profile and connected it to a real company. Sadly, it isn’t hard. LinkedIn doesn’t ask for any proof or confirmation of anything. Instead, LinkedIn runs on a sort of honor system.

You can say you work for a large company and give yourself an impressive job title. It worked for us. Our fake profile (John) “works for HP” as an Innovation Technologist. You may think that’s a job title we made up on the spot, but it’s a real position we found in HP’s job listings. We also gave John previous jobs at Exabeam and Salesforce to round out his resume.

You might imagine that HP or someone else would notice and stop us. But that’s not how it works. LinkedIn doesn’t notify companies about new employee profiles.

We didn’t steal anyone’s identity or even use a real photo for our fake profile. See that photo of John? That’s not a stock photo of a real person. Instead, the image came from thispersondoesnotexist.com. Simply put, it’s a fake photo of a non-existent person generated by a computer algorithm. Here’s a screenshot of the fake profile for posterity.

Companies Can’t Stop Fake Employees

HP employee listing on linkedin, showing our fake profile as an employee.

Here’s the kicker: LinkedIn automatically adds anyone who lists themselves as an employee to a company’s page. Right now, you can search and find our fake profile in the list of HP employees. All you have to do is visit the company page, click on people, and then search the directory of employees.

With our fake profile in HP’s “official employee list” on LinkedIn, John looks like a pretty legitimate employee!

Even if a company does notice a person listed as an employee when they shouldn’t be, it’s hard to remove them. To remove a rogue employee, a real employee has to log into the company’s LinkedIn profile, go to the contact us page, and explain the situation to LinkedIn. From there, the company is at the mercy of the social network; only LinkedIn can remove an employee from a company’s page.  That makes the odds of getting caught AND getting removed incredibly low.

All It Takes Is One “Yes” to Build Your Connections

An invitation request on LinkedIn
This person invited us to connect, likely as a result of similar connections.

Of course, there was one problem: John didn’t have any connections at HP. To solve it, we started randomly trying to connect to any HP employee we could find.

It’s a lot like what you do with your own LinkedIn account: You’ll invite or accept anyone remotely associated with you somehow. We didn’t have a single legitimate connection to invite, which was a problem. But all we needed was one person to say yes.

After the first person connected, the process took off. Before we knew it, with just an hour or two of work, John had nearly 50 connections. People who never met him, never spoke with him, and never even emailed with him all wanted to connect. That number continues to grow, and we’ve also received an invitation (as opposed to asking) from an HP employee.

A Google Recruiter Even Contacted Our Fake Profile

LinkedIn message from a Google recruiter asking for a chat about jobs.

With a growing list of connections and a job history in tech, it was only a matter of time before John garnered some notice. But no one noticed John wasn’t real. Instead, Google thought he might be a good fit for a job.

And so a Google recruiter reached out. The recruiter said John’s work history made him a potential fit for a position the company had available and wanted to chat about possibilities. As far as the Google employee was concerned, there were no red flags with John.

We didn’t go through with the chat—John’s not real, and his photo was generated by a computer algorithm. But, if we were trying to land a job somewhere, this would probably have been a great way to build up a real-looking fake resume to get a foot in the door.

Fake Connections and Endorsements Are Easy to Buy

LinkedIn invites page, showing 109 invites.
100 connection invites arrived all at once.

Our fake profile already had nearly 50 connections to its name, and we could have continued using the same process to gain more. But that’s too much work. We wanted a lot of connections fast. So we used a shortcut.

We paid for a service that gave John 100 connections. Those connections then endorsed our ten top skills, giving us a total of 100 endorsements. Not surprisingly, we found our invitation requests answered more quickly once the connection numbers grew so large. Now John’s profile looks impressive! A job at HP, 179 connections (many to HP employees), and countless endorsements—nevermind that he doesn’t exist.

You may wonder whether LinkedIn will notice we paid for connections. As far as we can tell, they’re “valid.” They haven’t disappeared, and each profile we’ve looked at lists the United States for a home country.

That’s what the service promised, too. As the website puts it:

Every profile that will invite you has a profile picture, English name, and location in the United States. They have work experience and educational background.

From what we can see, this is an automated process. The 100 connection invites came in almost simultaneously. The endorsement process used the existing connections we paid for. The connection-buying service maintains ongoing access to all these profiles.

You Can’t Necessarily Trust LinkedIn Connections

LinkedIn profile shot, showing a 3rd connection to the logged in profile.
While logged in with our personal LinkedIn account, we see John as a 3rd connection.

LinkedIn shows when you’re connected to someone else through your connections and your connections’ connections. If you’re connected directly to someone, that’s a first-degree connection. Your connections’ connections that you don’t share are second-degree connections. And any connections they have are third-degree connections.

As you build up personal connections, your extended network proliferates. Think about it: if you have ten friends, and each of them has ten friends you don’t know, then you have 100 “friends of a friend.”

So perhaps it isn’t a total surprise that our fake profile is somehow a “3rd” connection away from one of our real profiles. That means our real profile has a connection to somebody who has a connection to somebody else who then has a connection to “John.” It’s a small world, after all.

LinkedIn uses these connections to show the legitimacy of a profile, but it’s easy for fake profiles to get them. “This person knows a friend of a friend” is supposed to be reassuring. But you can’t count on that. There’s no way to trace your connections to that person, either.

LinkedIn Provides an Illusion of Trustworthiness

LinkedIn graphic encouraging you to join your "colleagues, classmates, and friends" on the site.
Your colleagues, classmates, and friends are here. And you can trust them and the people they know, right? LinkedIn

LinkedIn’s problems are numerous. But most of those issues are small and forgivable on their own. Anyone can create a profile with any name. Anyone can list themselves as an employee of any company. LinkedIn doesn’t provide companies an easy way to moderate and enforce its employee roster.  Anyone can buy connections and endorsements. People intuitively trust that a person’s work history is real and accurate and that other people or companies have verified profiles.

On their own, any one of those statements isn’t a significant problem. But, added together, the problem is much bigger than the total of the parts. No one is verifying accuracy; it all relies on an honor system.

When you receive a connection request, you evaluate the person on several fronts. Do you recognize them? If not, do they work for your company or a frequently contacted company? Do they know someone you know? And so on. It’s easy to turn most those answers into yes. And, since LinkedIn operates on the principles of “more connections is always better,” most people are willing to overlook not knowing a person.

LinkedIn Makes Resume Padding and Scamming Easy

LinkedIn "Welcome to your professional community."
A professional community subtly implies trust and people who have been vetted. LinkedIn

We didn’t follow through with the Google recruiter. Google would quickly realize our profile was fake. After all, we used a photo of a person who doesn’t exist!

But you don’t need an entirely fake profile to benefit from LinkedIn’s policies. You could add just one company you never worked for, a job title you never had, or one extra piece of information. You could pay for connections and endorsements. That could help you get a job interview. Resume padding is an old trick, and this is the digital version.

That’s bad for everyone. As recruiters get burned, they’re less likely to trust LinkedIn and may turn to other recruiting methods.

Getting a job might not always be the name of the game. When we investigated a job recruiting scam, the scammers posed as an employee of a company by pointing us the real profile of a real person at a real company. It came with some risk–what if their target tried to connect to and contact the person on LinkedIn? The scammer could simply have created a fake LinkedIn profile. WIth a few hours of work, that fake profile would look every bit as good as an actual employee.

A company who realized their name was being abused on LinkedIn couldn’t stop a scammer from doing this immediately, either. Instead, that company would have to plead its case to LinkedIn.

RELATED: Scam Alert: Fake Job Recruiters Tried to Catfish Us, Here’s What Happened

LinkedIn Could Fix the Problem

LinkedIn could fix these issues. For example, LinkedIn could let companies verify their employees and provide better tools for removing rogue employees. The social network could check IDs and give some profiles a “verified” badge, as Twitter does.

To stop fake connections, LinkedIn could even watch for and detect signs of suspicious activity, like a profile receiving 100 connection invitations all at once. Then it could put a stop to the practice. Other social networks already watch for fake accounts.

But, until LinkedIn takes action, you should look harder at every connection request. And, if a job recruiter points you to their LinkedIn profile, you shouldn’t use that information alone to guide your career decisions.

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How to Spot a Fake Tech Support Scam

Have you received an email or phone call telling you that your computer is infected with malware? It sounds scary, like there’s a serious problem with your computer. And the caller offers to fix the problem for you, if only you’ll pay the fee for their tech support.

This is an increasingly common type of scam which targets people who are worried about losing access to their computer due to a virus. Unscrupulous scammers will make up problems with your computer and take your money for a fix you don’t need.

We’ll show you how to spot and avoid these fake tech support scams.

How Tech Support Scammers Contact You

Tech Support Scam Popup

There are a variety of ways that tech support scammers will try to convince you that your computer is infected with malware. Often you will receive a phone call or an email from someone who claims to be a representative of Microsoft. They’ll tell you that they have identified a threat on your computer, or that they have detected suspicious activity on your account.

Sometimes they will say that your computer has a virus or has malware. Other times they’ll say that someone is trying to hack or access your computer without your permission. Or they might say that your computer is in need of optimization or updating.

They’ll then tell you that you need to get this problem fixed or that your computer will stop working. Sometimes they’ll say that if you don’t fix the problem you will lose all your files like your photos or your music.

An alternative version of the scam uses popups on websites. When you visit a dodgy site, a popup will appear like the one above saying that a virus has been detected. These popups can be cleverly designed to look just like real Windows popups or error screens.

What Happens When You Respond to a Tech Support Scam

If you respond to these scams by calling the phone number provided, one of two things will happen. The first and most common option is that the scammers will sell you software they say will fix the problem. They will direct you to a website where you put in your credit card details and download the “security software”.

When you run the fake security software, often it will do nothing at all but will give you a message saying that your computer is now free of malware so you think it worked. Other times, the software can actually install real malware onto your computer.

The second option is that the person on the phone will tell you they need to remote access into your computer. They will instruct you to give them access to your computer in real time, while you are on the phone, and then they will take control of your computer.

They will pretend to be fixing your “malware”, but in reality they are installing software onto your computer which can be used to steal your identity or credit card details.

You should only ever let someone your really trust like a friend or a family member have remote access to your computer. Learn more about how to use remote access safely and securely

How to Use Remote Access Efficiently, Safely & Securely

How to Use Remote Access Efficiently, Safely & Securely

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How to Tell a Real Malware Issue From a Fake One

The only way that you can tell if your computer has malware on it is if you check it for yourself. You should never believe an email, telephone call, or chat message which tells you that you have malware.

Remember that Microsoft will never contact you in these ways to inform you of a problem with your computer. If someone calls you claiming to be a Microsoft representative, they are almost certainly lying.

The messages you receive can look scary. They can say that a serious threat has been detected, that urgent action is required, or that you are in danger of losing all your files. But this is all untrue, intended to scare you into handing over money for “support” that you don’t need.

If you want a quick and simple way to detect malware for yourself, you can use Windows Defender in Windows 10

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. This is a built-in suite which offers real-time protection and detection of malware.

What to Do If You Really Have a Malware Problem

If you do find that you have malware on your computer, don’t panic. You can easily fix the problem yourself using free tools that are available online like Malwarebytes. Or you can use Microsoft’s free and official Windows Malicious Software Removal Tool.

For step by step instructions on cleaning malware off your computer, see our Complete Malware Removal Guide

The Complete Malware Removal Guide

The Complete Malware Removal Guide

Malware is everywhere these days, and eradicating malware from your system is a lengthy process, requiring guidance. If you think your computer is infected, this is the guide you need.
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Watch out for Related Scams Even From Reputable Companies

You might think that these types of tech support scams would only be created by disreputable companies. If you go to a well regarded and well known office or PC store, you wouldn’t think that you could be the victim of a scam.

Unfortunately that’s not the case. In 2019 alone there have been two examples of well known stores offering fake tech support to their customers.

Recently, two big names in office products, Office Depot and support.com, have paid $35 million to settle a lawsuit. The lawsuit alleged that both companies participated in a malware scam. They offered a “PC Health Check Program” to their customers, but this program always reported that it had found malware even when it hadn’t.

Customers were then tricked into paying for the companies to remove the non-existent “malware” from their machines.

A second related issue arose last year in Britain with the Currys PC World chain. For years the retailer charged customers an extra £40 on top of the price of a new laptop for “pre-configuration” which they had not requested. This charge was for the inclusion of a USB stick for recovery.

In fact, users can easily perform a factory reset or use system restore on Windows 10

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without any additional software.

This proves that you need to be careful of any offers of paid tech support, even from “trustworthy” companies.

Don’t Fall for Tech Support Scams

The best way to avoid tech support scams is to learn about malware protection yourself. Don’t believe phone calls or emails that claim to come from Microsoft which warn you that your machine is infected. Perform your own malware scans using free tools which can detect and remove any malware that you do find.

To keep your computer safe from malware in the future, you should also use some kind of malware protection software. To find suitable software, check our list of the best security software for Windows 10 malware protection

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Want to tighten security on your PC? It’s a good idea, so take a look at these fantastic antivirus choices for Windows 10.
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Image Credit: AndreyPopov/Depositphotos

Explore more about: Scams, Tech Support.

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Fake Job Recruiters Tried to Catfish Us, Here’s What Happened

Businessman wearing a mask in an office

Fake recruiters are catfishing desperate job-seekers, seducing them with the promise of a high-paying job before stealing their money and identity. We recently posed as a gullible recruit and let a scammer sucker us so we could learn their tricks.

Fake Recruiters Are Impersonating Real People

Here’s why this scam is so smart: Fake recruiters are impersonating legitimate people at real companies. When the person contacts you, everything appears real—a real company with a real website and a real person’s name and photo that appears in that company’s directory of employees. The scammer links you to the company’s real website and a real LinkedIn profile that seems to match the person to whom you’re talking.

But it’s a trick. The person you’re talking to isn’t who they claim to be. You’re talking to a scammer pretending to be a real employee.

Here’s How the Scam Starts

Google Hangouts conversation showing an work from home job offer.
Photos and names have been blurred to protect victims of identity theft.

Fake job recruiters don’t just contact you out of nowhere. These scammers contact people who’ve posted resumes online looking for a job. The scammer offers a sweet work-from-home job, which could be very tempting to someone who’s having trouble finding work. The scammer poses as a “recruiter” for a real company, so it kind of makes sense that the email isn’t from the company’s regular email accounts.

We know someone who was contacted by one of these scammers, so we sent over a fake resume to see how they’d try to take advantage of an eager job seeker.

The “recruiter” was happy to get our fake resume and quickly directed us to talk to someone on Google Hangouts—in text chat and not video chat, of course. With a quick bit of internet sleuthing, we discovered the person’s name and profile picture matched a real person on the company’s website and LinkedIn. The person even directed us to that company’s website so we could “familiarize ourselves with the company.”

That company—which we’ve contacted, but won’t name here—is also a victim of the scam. This particular company is the perfect mark, as we had great difficulties reaching someone at the company to warn them they were part of this elaborate scam. A victim of the scam wouldn’t quickly be able to check that the company wasn’t hiring through Google Hangouts, either.

A Job Interview With a Real Fake Person

Google Hangouts conversation showing open positions.

Our naive young job seeker (let’s call him John) couldn’t believe his luck! The company offered John a variety of positions from Customer Service and Data Entry Clerk to Accounting Executive. Despite his resume with a background in IT, he applied for a customer service position. We provided different information than we used on the resume—the scammer obviously hadn’t bothered to read it.

The interview just kept getting better and better. The job is a work from home position that paid $40 an hour—full time with benefits! The only drawback was that that the training period only paid $20 an hour—oh, and that the whole thing was a scam.

We were totally on board at this point—well, for the sake of the exercise—but the scammer actually apologized for looking scammy:

i (sic) would like to apprise to (sic) you that we are sorry about our unseemly approach if this interview conducting method is unprofessional to you or if you are new to all this, but i (sic) believe the world is always advancing so it is important to stay on top of things as change is inevitable.

Sounds legit to us!

John’s multi-hour interview began with questions about job history, career goals, what bank he uses, and how long he’d been with the bank. Completely standard questions that you’d expect in any job interview, right? John’s answers to these questions were somehow “scored,” and he netted a score of 86.23%.

Our intrepid young job seeker had mixed feelings at this point. On the one hand, he clearly aced that interview and deserved no less than 96%—with 4 points taken off for refusing to provide job references. On the other hand, he’d already received a promotion! After all, he applied for customer service and now had a position in Project Management.

Google Hangouts stating employee has been "hired" for scam.
We’re surprised the scammer didn’t want our W-4 right away, as that would have been a great way to get a social security number.

The Interview Was Coming From Nigeria

John was now hired at this totally legitimate company and ready to begin work! To move forward, John would need to sign an employee offer letter, provide a picture of his passport, and send the IMEI and serial number of his smartphone. That sent us into a scramble—while preparing to be duped, we didn’t anticipate a request for a passport or an IMEI number. Identification makes some amount of sense, but why would any job need an IMEI number?

Google Hangouts chat describing apps required for training.

According to our perfectly trustworthy and legitimate interviewer, the company would use the phone’s IMEI to install training apps on John’s phone. But the company was also going to give John a new “Apple Laptop” to run programs like Microsoft Office XP 2012, which isn’t a real program and probably wouldn’t run on Macs if it was.

Luckily, John’s new workplace was very understanding and willing to wait for John to retrieve his passport from his parents, giving us time to whip one up. In the meantime, John sent them the offer letter—with a slight addition. We sent the message via a link that tracked the IP address of the person who opened it and crossed our fingers, hoping the scammer wouldn’t notice. And fortunately, they didn’t!

Much to the shock of nobody ever, instead of showing an IP address from the U.S., our recruiter seemed to be speaking to us from Nigeria.

This could just be the first hop of some VPN to disguise the scammer’s real address, but it’s clear they aren’t a legitimate company in the U.S., which they claimed to be.

Please Ship Us a $1449 Smartphone

Nevermind the scammer’s IP address though, because John had a new problem! His training couldn’t start because his phone was incompatible with the training apps. They “won’t remotely install.” And there’s only one phone that will do. An “iPhone Max with the largest hard drive and latest iOS.” Nothing less will do.

Sensing his newfound job was in danger, John felt immediate relief when the recruiter offered a suggestion. John could provide the username, password, and security questions to his cellular carrier’s online portal. John’s awesome new company would log in for him, order that expensive new smartphone, and pay for it with company funds. Isn’t that nice? Just what you’d expect from a legitimate company!

Google hangouts chat asking for login credentials for cell phone carrier portal.

But John was already a step ahead; his brother just happened to have an iPhone XS Max with 512 GB hard drive. He didn’t want it because, uh, reasons. The recruiter said this would be perfect. John just needed to ship that $1449 smartphone to the company so its technicians could install those training apps. As we all know, iPhone apps are incredibly challenging to work with, so of course, John was willing to ship the phone.

The recruiter helpfully sent a FedEx label, and it’s at this point that John, through the magic of Google, got his first look at his new workplace’s headquarters.

A very small house with with three windows, no second story, and a carport.
The address where we’re supposed to ship the phone points to this random house.

Well, that doesn’t look like a large company headquarters. Maybe the offices are underground? Some digging into the address revealed that a trustee currently owns this house, so likely it’s vacant. That’s the perfect target for this scam. The scammer can watch for the package to arrive and scoop it up without fear of a homeowner intercepting it. They even asked John for a picture of the box so they’d know what to look for.

Of course, we never sent the package. Several days later, the scammer is still asking for it. John insists he sent the package, but his new employer doesn’t believe him. The scammer said John never sent it and he knows—but that’s okay, he forgives John. He knows John will soon “do the right thing” and mail him an expensive smartphone so he can begin his well-paying work from home.

Identity Theft, Fake-Check Scams, and More

In this particular scenario, the scammers were after phones. They wanted to break into your cellular carrier account, order expensive smartphones to another address under your name, and swipe the phones. You pay for the phones, of course.

That’s bad enough, but this could have gone a different way. By offering you a job, the scammers have a logical reason for requesting your name, address, phone number, signature, social security number, and a picture of your passport.

With all that information, they could easily steal your identity. Forget breaking into your existing accounts—with that information, they could open new credit card accounts and do other nasty things. Heck, Facebook now bars foreign nationals from placing political ads in the United States, so a scammer could use your personal information to pose as a US citizen and buy any ads they like.

The scammer could use this whole job interview process to begin a more traditional check-forwarding scam where they send you bad checks, too. You deposit the checks at your bank before initiating a wire transfer and forwarding the money—but those checks bounce, and you’re out the money.

Watch Out For These Red Flags

Google Hangouts chat with apology for conducting interviews through chat
Even the scam artist knows an interview shouldn’t use Google hangouts.

If you’re reading How-To Geek, you might know these things already. But it’s possible you have friends and family who don’t so talk with them. Let them know the red flags. A few simple rules go a long way:

Companies don’t hire through Google Hangouts or text messaging. If someone contacts you about a job through Google Hangouts, don’t rely on their methods of contact to proceed. Find a way to approach the company directly, through a phone number on its website or better yet in person, and confirm the job interview.

U.S.-based HR recruiters are most likely going to speak excellent English. Throughout my contact with this scammer, I noticed they spoke English at a competent level. But their spelling was frequently wrong, they often left out important words, or incorrectly used common phrases and idioms. Their language capability didn’t match up to the profile of the person I found on LinkedIn. It’s entirely possible that an HR company might hire someone who learned English as a second language, so this isn’t a hard and fast rule. But it should ring a warning bell for you.

No company should ask for your login credentials for a website they don’t control, whether that be a bank, a cell phone carrier, or anything else—especially any site that holds your money or your credit cards.

Legitimate companies won’t ask you to pay anything to start a job. Your employer pays you; you don’t pay your employer. Never pay a new employer for the privilege of working or “deposit a company check” to your personal account and forward funds. It’s a trap.

Finally, if it sounds too good to be true, then it probably isn’t true. A work from home job in customer service that pays $40 an hour is far too good to be true. Look into similar positions at similar companies. Does the position make sense? Does the pay make sense? Ask these sort of questions.

Interested in more scam investigations? Here’s how we played along with one of those “tech support” scammers.

RELATED: The “Tech Support” Scammers Called HTG (So We Had Fun with Them)

How to Report Fake Employment Scams

We reported this scam to the FTC. If you ever encounter a scam like this, you should do the same. Head to the FTC’s Complaint Assist website, which will walk you through reporting fraudulent job offers and other related scams. If you’re not in the USA, your government probably has a similar agency to which you should report these types of scams.

Because the scammer contacted us through Google Hangouts, we also reported this scam to Google. Unfortunately, several days later, the scammer still appeared online on Google Hangouts. We’re disappointed Google isn’t promptly acting on reports of fraud on its platform.

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Ticket-O-Matic Is the Best Fake Airline Ticket Generator

Are you looking for a fake airline ticket generator? There’s only one app worth talking about: Ticket-O-Matic.

It doesn’t matter whether you want to create elaborate pranks

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or just dream of a summer vacation in the sun

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, this is the app you need. Keep reading to find out how to use the app to make a fake flight ticket.

Creating a Fake Airline Ticket

Creating a ticket is easy. To get started, head to the Ticket-O-Matic fake ticket generator website and click the Start Now link in the center of the page.

fake ticket homepage

Enter Your Details

On the first screen, you can enter your passenger details and flight information.

fake airline ticket details

For added realism, the app even includes a link to a handy list of worldwide airport codes. Unfortunately, the number of supported airlines is slightly limited. You have 33 to choose from, though most familiar ones are offered.

Hit Done when you’re ready to move to the second step.

Download Your Fake Airline Ticket

One the next screen, you can download your fake air ticket.

You have two formats to choose from: PNG and JPG. The JPG file is smaller, but the image quality isn’t as good. Make your choice and click the corresponding download button.

If you’d rather send your ticket to a friend, click the Email Me link in the center of the screen.

You have two and a half hours to download your creation, otherwise, Ticket-O-Matic will delete it.

fake airline ticket

Ticket-O-Matic’s Limitations

For a fun and free tool, Ticket-O-Matic is hard to criticize. There are a couple of drawbacks though:

  • You cannot choose your seat number.
  • There’s no way to alter the color of the background or airline logo (in my example, the Aeromexico logo is red, it should be dark blue).
  • You cannot make an entire fake flight itinerary—only a ticket is available.
  • The developer’s logo is always in the bottom left-hand corner. It’s a giveaway if you’re trying to fool someone. You will need to edit it out.

Buy a Real Airline Ticket!

If you would like to buy a real ticket and actually go on holiday somewhere nice, make sure you check out our article on the best apps to find the cheapest airline tickets

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Looking for cheap flights? Then you definitely need to download at least one of these apps!
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Explore more about: Flight Tickets, Prank.

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