From dating sites to friendship apps to social media—millions of people interact with strangers online everyday. But how can you know if the person on the other end is who they say they are?
Since most online platforms require little (if any) identity verification in order to create a profile, it’s unfortunately easier than you’d think for people to pose as someone they’re not online.
This is where reverse image searching comes in.
Reverse image searching is a tool you can use to help you validate whether someone’s profile is real, specifically, whether or not they are using stolen photos on their profile. A reverse image search will search the public internet to see if any sites return that same photo. Catfishers and romance scammers will often steal photos from real people’s social media profiles and utilizing a reverse image search can help you better understand if you’re interacting with the real person behind a photo.
Now with the advancement of artificial intelligence, catfishers, scammers, and fraudsters are utilizing this technology to create unique photos that are hyperrealistic and even deepfakes which are getting to the point they’re hard to detect with the human eye. Reverse image search won’t pull up the photos appearing anywhere else online because they aren’t real - which is another major concern.
But, safety experts also recommend using different photos on your dating app profiles than you use on your other online profiles to help prevent bad actors from being able to find out more about you just through your photo. So, like most things, running a reverse image search is not a foolproof method to detect or prevent catfishers, but if you’re suspicious about someone’s real identity or intentions, it is a good tool in the safety toolbelt.
Let’s discuss more about how to perform a reverse image search and how doing so can help you stay safe while interacting with new people online.
Reverse image searching is a process that involves uploading an image file, copying and pasting an image, or providing an image url to a reverse image search engine. The search engine will then search the web with this image in order to find out where else on the internet that photo exists, what accounts and profiles are using the photos, and the original location of the image.
In short, reverse image searching can help you:
Sometimes, a reverse image search will not provide any results, but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. This just means that the photo (or similar photos) either does not exist in other places online or if it does, those places are not searchable. For example, an image on someone’s dating profile could exist on their private Instagram account, but since it is private, the reverse image search engine cannot access this account’s content.
It can depend on someone’s internet footprint of how well a reverse image search will work. For example, if someone is not a super online person, a reverse image search won’t work as well.
We recommend trying more than one reverse image search engine to get the best results possible and we’ll share a few options below.
Unfortunately, catfishing is much more common than people think. Studies have found that 10% of new accounts created on free dating sites are fake. Furthermore, catfishing and related scams can lead to serious emotional and financial stress as the FBI reported victims lost nearly $740 million in 2022.
In short, online scammers are abundant, so it’s in your best interest to use tools like reverse image searching to help you steer clear of anyone lying about their identity. While it should not be the only tool in your safety toolbelt, it can be a useful resource even beyond online dating - including learning about a new friend, a roommate, or landlord.
Reverse image searching is quite easy, but we have a few tips to make sure you get the best results. Firstly, it’s important to crop photos to remove unnecessary backgrounds. This is especially important with social media or dating profile screenshots. You don’t want the other information on someone’s dating profile to confuse the image search engine.
Once your photos are ready to go, we recommend using Google reverse image search or Microsoft Bing. Both options let you search for duplicate images across the web by uploading an image, dragging and dropping a file, searching with the URL, searching with an image from a website, or from image search results.
You can reverse image search on a mobile device, like an iPhone or Android phone, or on a desktop computer.
To reverse image search on an iPhone, first ensure the photo is saved to your camera roll by taking a screenshot or saving the image from the web page directly.
Using Google Reverse Image Search: Download or update the Google app or Chrome app and open the app. Tap the camera icon to the right of the search bar to open Google Lens. Allow the app access to your photos and you’re ready to upload your image and search.
Using Bing Reverse Image Search: Download the Bing app and tap the camera icon in the search bar. From here you’ll be able to upload a photo from your library. Alternatively, you can navigate to bing.com/visualsearch on your mobile browser and similarly, upload an image to reverse search.
These same steps apply if you’re using an Apple iPad or other iOS device.
To reverse image search from an Android device, again, you’ll want to save the photo in your photo library by taking a screenshot or saving the image directly.
Using Google Reverse Image Search: Open your Google app or Chrome app and tap Discover at the bottom of the page. From here, follow the same steps outlined above for an iPhone.
Using Bing Reverse Image Search: Follow the steps outlined above for an iPhone.
To search by image on a desktop, you’ll just need to open a new tab on a compatible web browser like Google Chrome browser, Firefox, or Safari and follow the steps below.
Using Google Reverse Image Search: Navigate to images.google.com and click the camera icon to the right of the search box. From here you’ll see the option to drag and drop, upload, or paste the link of the photo you want to search.
Using Bing Reverse Image Search: Navigate to bing.com/visualsearch. From here you’ll see the option to take a photo, paste a url, upload a photo, or search for an image.
Aside from Google and Bing, there are also a number of third-party apps and sites that you can use to reverse image search.
If you plan to use a third-party reverse image search app, be sure to read any pop-ups carefully and check out the reviews in the app store before downloading.
Whatever platform you choose, it’s important to protect your safety.
If you choose to use a third party site to reverse image search, we recommend reading a few reviews and checking out their terms of service first. You want to know what data they’re collecting about you when you run a search using their service and also what rights, if any, they have to the content you’re uploading or searching for.
Lastly, keep in mind that reverse image searches are not foolproof. Fraudsters, catfishers and romance scammers are becoming more and more skilled in terms of getting around these tools, especially with the advancement of AI and deepfakes, so always use caution.
Check out our additional digital dating safety tips for other suggestions on how to protect yourself, and as always, trust your gut if you’re noticing red flags.
Good luck! And remember to always run a search on Garbo before meeting in person to see if they have a history of harm.
We work with online platforms to help proactively protect their communities through our innovative background check system. Get in touch to learn more about how we can integrate Garbo or help you proactively screen users at sacale.