Although it’s quite a small problem, BitTorrent is sadly being used by a minority to generate money for scammers through trickery and deception. We’ve reported before how people download movies only to learn that they require a special media player to play it, or others which come with a payload of malware to infect their PC when they install it.
Other people get other problems such as torrents never finishing or when they watch a downloaded video it turns out to be completely the wrong thing – i.e the file was deliberately mislabeled. Sometimes the video download is of such poor quality it’s simply unwatchable and of course all this adds up to a lot of frustration and wasted time.
There are many techniques employed by experienced file-sharers to ensure that the torrent is what it says it is and of a good enough quality to even bother with. We’ll look at just a few of them here.
Remember that sharing certain types of media via BitTorrent may not be legal in your country.
1. Always read the comments
Before downloading any torrent, it’s always prudent to read the comments on the site. It only takes a few seconds but it’s time well spent. Very often there are requests from previous downloaders for a password to access the file or some might be asking where to download a special video player to view it. Movies should never come as .zip or an .exe file, if they do there is every chance the file comes with some sort of catch. If the movie won’t play with VLC Media Player there’s every chance it’s a fake. Any files needing 3WPlayer, DomPlayer or any that direct to other sites and ask you to fill in forms or install stuff, are also fake.
2. Can the source be trusted?
A good way to find out if a .torrent is real or not is to find out who uploaded the file. There are several well known users that always release new torrents on the same account, aXXo and EZTV are some good examples of such users. If the user is anonymous, you could look at the tracker, and see if it’s widely used. There is no guarantee that files on a well known trackers are safe, but you can almost be certain that files tracked by trackers such as bittorrent.isthebe.st are fake.
3. Is the file actually released already?
Many people use sites such as VCDQuality and Nforce.nl (sites that rates the quality of media releases on the internet) to not only ensure that the video is of a good quality, but also to weed out malfunctioning releases and identify real ones. Recently a movie producer was grateful to the BitTorrent community for spreading his movie ‘The Man From Earth‘, so we can use this movie as an example:
The VCDQ page shows a lot of information but let’s look at the box marked ‘folder’. Here you can see the release name. By copying and pasting this exact filename into Google, a list of almost guaranteed non-fake torrents appear.
Another place to check is TorrentSpam. If you already have a torrent file in your possession, you can either paste the full name (or hash value, obtainable from the ‘general’ tab in uTorrent) into their search engine and if someone has reported this as a bad torrent, the results will be shown. Equally, if despite all the measures you still end up downloading a bad torrent, its possible to report this fact for the benefit of other TorrentSpam users in the future.
Do you have any tips or tricks not mentioned here that you would like to share? Feel free to leave a comment!
4. Other suggestions
We asked Matthijs from Mininova for some good tips on how to avoid downloading fake or scammy torrents and he came up with the following suggestions in addition to what we already posted.
- Check the contents of the torrent, a single rar files is often an indication for a passworded file, especially if it is accompanied by a readme.txt/.url
- Nowadays you even have to watch out for releases with a single avi file and a readme file/url where the user is required to rename the avi file to rar and fetch a password somewhere.
- Tracker names which look very similar to well known trackers are often fake, e.g.: http://vip-the-piratebay.homelinux.com:6969/scrape and http://tracker-btc-net.dnsdojo.org:6969/scrape
- Unknown/new trackers (that can’t be found on google anywhere) with large amounts of seeds/leechers
- If an application torrent isn’t really appropriate for BitTorrent (very small) it’s better to avoid them.
- Check the size and see if it fits the description
- Most important: install a good (up-to-date) virus/spyware scanner and scan before opening!
In the end it’s experience alone that helps identify the fakes. Most people who have been file-sharing for a little while can easily spot these bad torrents but it’s clearly not so easy for the novice, judging by the number of emails we get at TorrentFreak each week. Let’s hope that number reduces soon.