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Using Google Image Search to Check for Possible Scammers

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Elna is a former transport safety researcher. She is a consultant for social projects and works mainly in South Africa and SADC countries.

A Linkedin contact starts a conversation

Many scammers are easy to spot and I have reported and blocked quite a few. On Facebook I don't befriend people I don't actually know and those I don't know so well I add to the restricted list. On other network sites like instagram and pinterest I immediately block a stranger starting a conversation.

Linkedin is different. The idea of Linkedin is business networking and I have through Linkedin collaborated with other organisations in for instance putting a tender together. Of course, after the initial conversation you would check the organisation website, email addresses and bio of the person initiating the contact. Since they work in the same field as you, you can even check with other professionals in the network who are known to you personally.

Last week a Dr Pannabecker started talking to me - a surgeon from Doctors without Borders. Road Safety research often includes trauma research for specific injury types so this is still within context. When he got too chatty I became suspicious

This is the photo the scammer Dr Pannabecker used.

This is the photo the scammer Dr Pannabecker used.

Too chatty

This is his side of the conversation: He lured me into revealing the city I work from.

Hello, It's beautiful to know and see the beautiful works your organization are doing. I'm Dr Pannabecker, works for the MSF. Dr Pannabecker

You welcome Elna,if I may ask where are you from and where do you base presently?

Hello Elna. That's nice to hear,I was in South Africa last year December for an inspection of an upcoming project in Capetown,it was a beautiful experience,I enjoy the weather and the hospitality of the people around,I will be flying back to South Africa again this month,but I wait for the completion of documentation as I will be the General Surgeon in charge of the local doctors /surgeons who are going to be part of the project,but as time goes on I will let you know more details ,before then hope you are having a great week?

Hello Elna How are you doing,sorry for the late reply,hope you had a splendid weekend and now having a blessed filled new week,I'm not always on this site,I only check on here once a while,if you don't mind we both chat somewhere that we can both have a more consistent conversation and keep up to date with each other,do you have hangouts or skype that we both can be consistent in keeping up with each other,concerning the project in South Africa,the MSF in conjunction with the UN Organization,to render free health service to 4 communities in South Africa it's going to be in Capetown,Johannesburg and Pretoria.I will talk more about this when we both finally have time to chat either on skype or hangouts,so I will wait to hear from you to send me your Gmail address,wait to hear soon from you. Dr Pannabecker.

At this point I became suspicious. I should have been alert earlier - maybe hoping for some collaborative project which made me gullible?

Searching google using an image of my cat

My cat with his very full diary

My cat with his very full diary

Searching google using an image

Searching google using an image

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The scammer profile photo is used with various identities

In the google search bar you can drag and drop an image, upload from your computer or paste the URL. Click on the camera icon and the search returns images with general similarities plus websites where the identical image was found.

Google image search does not use facial recognition. This is mostly because of the risk of breaching privacy protocols.

Your scammer often has an Instagram account under another name, using the same photo. Useful for this is Pictame, Piknu and other similar platforms. It helps you to analyse your own account, but can also be used as Instagram viewers for scammers to spy on other accounts.

Google finds our Dr Pannabecker's thumbnail photo as a follower on a few other people's Instagram accounts, under a few different names. The exact same image is used with different identities.

Some people have 1000s of followers so take the time to scroll down until you find the same photo.

A few different instagram accounts with the same photo, but different identities

A few different instagram accounts with the same photo, but different identities

What did the scammer hope to achieve?

I am not sure what the intentions of "Dr Pannabecker" were. Doctors without borders is a very convenient context for a professional person to get into trouble. I might have gotten a request for a money transfer from any country where he could be "stuck" due to Visa issues or some other problem.

On instagram and pinterest scammers often start a conversation on how smitten they are with your profile picture (Romantic scamming). One would expect that the Linkedin platform can be used to elicit your cooperation in fake business or tender opportunities.

Just a quick check

Google image search is useful to do a quick check if a new contact request looks a bit suspicious to you. The moment you find that the same profile picture is used under more than one identity, you know that at least one of them is fake. Enough reason to report and block.

I am doing that now and at least one of my 5 new Linkedin requests also used a fake identity.


elnavann (author) from South Africa on April 18, 2020:

@ebonyr05 Yes it seems one has to be on the alert for this - some people are predators. One feels sorry for the person whose photo that really is.

Ebonyr05 on April 14, 2020:

This man is now on words with friends user name chassett47 claims he is Chris from Germany we moved to talk on hangout email chrishassett027@gmail sent me the same photo as this one you show so I’ve now blocked him thank you for keeping us all aware of these scammers

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