Forging Gone Wrong

DISCLAIMER: There are a lot of links out there that have malicious intent, especially on social media, enticing viewers with the promise of a punch line, get rich quick scheme, or juicy gossip. This tactic has been given the name clickbait. Once in, a lot of these “stories” are in the slideshow format that force viewers to open multiple pages loaded with ads and other garbage. I advise against clicking these links.

Okay, I’ll bite

I rarely get worked up about things I find absolutely ludicrous online for a couple of reasons: wasting my energy on pointless matters are just, well, pointless; and talking about it only gives it more exposure. Up until Tuesday, however, this statement would have started with “I never get worked up…”

This all comes down to my self-claimed title of “Visual Magician,” and the curse of being successful. When I create a special effect in a video or alter a photo in Photoshop and the viewer can’t tell I did anything to change it, I did my job successfully. The negative aspect to this is that my work is rarely acknowledged. Contrary to that, viewers can see unsuccessful work in altered photos when things just don’t look right. In fact, in an unsuccessful execution, the attempted changes can really stick out like a sore thumb, painting a picture of what the intent was supposed to be.

On Tuesday, I was killing a little bit of time on Facebook before Freddie got up from his nap. I came across a “Suggested Post” that I somehow interpreted to be a revenge story (because who doesn’t like an entertaining story about karma?!) from the title. It had all the warning signs of being clickbait, but I figured if it forced me into a slideshow or something, I would just go back and continue scrolling down my newsfeed. I went ahead and clicked the link.

It started off seemingly legitimate enough. The “News24” logo seemed odd, but there was a time stamp of when the story was published and the story started out the exact way a juicy revenge story should. The icing on the cake was the fact this wasn’t a slideshow!!

Okay, keep setting up this story! Smith’s roommate and girlfriend hooked up while he was out of town for work and he came home early, found them, and was really upset with them both. Trying to end both of his relationships, he found out he couldn’t get out of his lease with his roommate. This is building up to a huge payoff in the end; I can just feel it. So I kept scrolling down.

Turn for the worse

Our “protagonist” goes to stay with his parents. While at home, he learns about this incredible new app that his mom just won cash playing on. That ace-up-the-sleeve to get him out of his financial worries and get his revenge.

Oh. The app name is a link, and so is the name of the developer. This is all a big ploy to get users for this app. Fine. I’ll leave. Whatever. Right as I was going to back out, I became curious as to just how long this story is, so I scrolled down, and I noticed an iPhone screen shot.

This was a screen shot of a bank statement, but more importantly, it showed the winnings that were paid out from this app developer. It wasn’t some unbelievable, rounded off number, either. The amount was $4,582,221.00, and the bank statement proves it!

My friends and family who know me know that I am a Font Nazi. Conflicting fonts grind against me like nails on a chalkboard. That said, I don’t think anyone needs to be a Font Nazi to see the laughably terrible difference between the font of the actual screen shot verses the altered “JESTERS WIN CASINO” font that was used.

Now, I’m now looking for more stupidity, and I decided to finish reading the story. Smith takes his multimillion-dollar winnings and BUYS the apartment building for way more than it’s worth and raises the rent on his ex-girlfriend and roommate, essentially forcing them to move out.

The article finished with the author saying how skeptical he was about the app, but for “journalism’s sake,” decided to download the app as well. His bank statement showcasing his winnings was also screen captured, with the exact same alteration and font-choice.

This miss in execution brings forth the intent of this whole article: lying and deception to paint a picture of a getting a lot for little to no effort. My laughter over these altered images soon became a silent outrage. The app requires you to pay to play, and a sickening feeling came over me thinking about just how many people would actually buy into this load of lies. What’s worse is that there could be more, MANY MORE, articles out there just like this one convincing gullible people looking for an easy solution with far more convincing visuals.

I decided to screen capture this article before backing out. I looked at the post on my Facebook newsfeed again and just shook my head. What was it about this “Suggested Post” that clearly wasn’t shared by any of my friends that enticed me to click it? I wanted to view those stupid forged images one more time, only to find I couldn’t get back to the article anymore. I was going to share the link with my wife, but this abomination of an article simply ceased to exist. You can view my full story screen capture at the end.

Forger’s Guide to Deception

Let’s take another look at this failed forgery of a bank statement:

There are two different directions to go to make something like this even just moderately believable. The first is to pick a font that somewhat resembles the existing fonts. Ideally, you would want to pick the EXACT SAME font and size.

The other direction you could go is to just re-create the words of the entire image with just one font. I understand the hesitation to do so; re-typing words can be difficult and/or time consuming. In the point of this example, there are four whole lines on the bank statement, but considering you’re already creating one of the lines with an absolute lie, there are actually only three lines to recreate.

Wrap up

Please be smart while browsing social media, and don’t be lazy when it comes to consuming news. So many stories found in your newsfeed are trying to fulfill a predetermined agenda, whether that’s getting you to download an app or to evoke an emotional response to support a specific cause. Use your smartphone’s Internet connection outside of your social media app to find a reliable source on the topic before you click, download, respond, share, re-tweet, etc.

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