Don’t be fooled by fake video calls – how to spot FaceTime trickery

Even video calls can be faked with modern technology (Credits: Getty Images)

Spotting an online fraud isn’t always easy, even if it’s staring you right in the face.

Outing a catfish or exposing a scammer could usually be handled by asking to video call.

It’s much easier to trick someone through text or voice calling than it is about video calling software like FaceTime or Zoom.

Unfortunately, nothing is full proof. You need to be aware of how a video call can be manipulated if you’re developing a relationship with a person online.

Essentially, faking a video call means using a program or app to alter what your webcam displays during the call.

Most commonly, this can involve recording a video and playing that instead of your actual face. For instance, anyone sitting in a meeting they don’t have to speak in could just loop a video of them at their screen while they’re actually off doing something else.

For example, an app called ManyCam lets users configure the webcam input to their video calling app of choice. So it’s possible to replace your FaceTime or Zoom camera with a video from YouTube or something else pre-recorded.

It gets more difficult when the objective is to have a live conversation with another person.

That’s when you start getting into the realm of deepfakes, where another person’s likeness and voice are used to try and deceive the person on the other side of the call.

Because deepfakes require a lot of computing power, it’s often the case that only very serious tricksters will look to employ them. But there are some common failings to watch out for:

  • Video quality: Unlike a modern webcam meeting, the video quality on a deepfake may be poor because of the amount of data being pushed through. If it seems grainy or the video stutters a lot, it could be a giveaway.
  • cuts and jumps: If the deepfake is struggling to keep up, you might find the person jumps or momentarily freezes.
  • Video size: Anyone fake video calling you may have to resize the chat window to fit the software they’re using. If the distortions don’t look right to you, it may be time to get suspicious.
  • Contact details: Does the contact name on the person calling you match up with the details you have saved for them? Your phone should pull that from your phone so if the details on the screen aren’t right – perhaps a mispelt name – you should pay attention.
  • mismatched sync: Check the video and audio portions of the call line up properly. If you can see their lips moving but you don’t hear anything for a couple of seconds later, it could be a sign that they’re doctoring what’s going on.

Of course, there are also plenty of apps out there that allow you to apply filters to change things about yourself. It may not be a full deepfake, but it may let a person alter things like their skin color or eye color to convince you they’re somebody else.

If you’re concerned about fake video calling, check out this week’s episode of Smut Drop where we talk with Nella Rose, the host of Catfish UK, about all this shadyness.

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