How to identify online fake news, scams, and frauds

by Lorraine Williamson
fake news

As part of a campaign by the Internet Security Office (OSI), they look at ways to help you identify hoaxes, false news, scams, and fraud online.

The internet is an amazing place to gain knowledge and find all sorts of information. However, there is also a lot that is just fake and simply untrue.

According to the OSI, fake news concerns 86% of Spanish Internet users. Moreover, especially since the pandemic, use of the internet has grown at an even greater speed.

So, what is fake news?

Fake news is as it says, although sometimes, a base of true information is used, and then tweaked to make it false. The objective of this is to misinform, or sometimes to manipulate the readers.

Fake news can be worrying as it can spread through the internet in an instant, thus influencing your opinion on something, or making you behave in a way you wouldn´t normally.

This can impact you in many ways such as;

  • Theft of credentials: you could be a victim of theft of credentials, as when accessing the message, you are asked to log in to your social network.
  • Malware infection: your computer or device could become infected. This can happen when the message requires you to install some type of plug-in to properly view a video or open an attached file. Potentially, these may cause security breaches, information theft or personal data leakage.
  • Health risks: the spread of false rumours that can threaten your health, making you believe that tested treatments that are beneficial are not, or on the contrary, rely on alternative treatments without any medical guarantee or not endorsed by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

How do you know if something is fake news?

At times this can be difficult as cybercriminals are often good at what they do. However, before clicking on any links, stop for a second and ask yourself these questions recommended by the OSI.

cogesa expats
  • Follow your instinct: Does the information seem suspicious to you? Is it too good or timely to be true?
  • Check the source: What is the source of this news? Can you confirm it? If not, be suspicious!
  • Verify the author: Who has signed the correspondence you are reading? Does it have a signature? Check out the author´s profile on social media platforms.
  • Medium of the news: Is the account that has published the news a recognised one? Have you ever heard of it? Check it out!
  • Spelling errors: Does the content contain spelling errors? If so, be suspicious – this is very common!

Fake news examples

Aside from personal scams, here are some examples of fake news items;

  • Notification of a celebrity death – This is designed to shock, and for you to share, but unless from an authorised source, or verified by reliable organisations, it is usually untrue.
  • Celebrity photos modified – Again designed to shock and share. There are many cases of images circulating of celebrity plastic surgery failures, or weight gain etc.
  • Competitions – competitions with fantastic prizes that appear to come from a well-known organisation. You may even receive news you are a winner! But when did you enter?

How do you check fake news?

In addition to the help and information provided on the website of OSI, there are other ways you can check if something is fake.

You can download the maldita.es app onto your device. Or you can visit their website (Spanish only) and review the hoaxes that are currently trending.

Another website in English worth checking out is Snopes.

You can check up to date information on scams in Tweets by the Policia Nacional or the Guardia Civil. Or you can report any scams or fake news items to the OS.

Also read: Latest scam alert

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