Eve Dmochowska
Eve Dmochowska

Now you can even swap your child online

There is a website, www.childtrader.com that allows and even encourages you to permanently swap your child should you feel that you are not an ideal match. You cannot sell or buy a child, only swap one (your own, preferably) for one that is better suited to you.

The website is filled with testimonials, FAQs, encouragment and tips on how to say goodbye to the brat that you now have. There are dozens of photographs/profiles of children that are looking for new homes.

If you are at all unsatisfied with the kid you’ve got, you should check it out. Totally.

Actually, the reason you should check it out is not to swap your child (obviously the website is a farce), but because it is a good wake up call to the old joke “On the Internet, nobody know you are a dog”.

The website in question looks legitimate. In fact, it looks far better than a lot of really legitimate sites that I come across. The site dots all the is and crosses all the ts, almost. In fact, the rare clue that this might not be a legitimate site (aside from the actual subject matter) is that there are no tangible contact details for the site owners. An offline business that has an online presence should at least include a land line phone number or a physical address. (Of course, a physical address is difficult to authenticate if it is in a different country). The site also does not have a final call to action, like an “order now” button, and there is scant reference to prices. But other than that, it looks pretty authentic to me.

This just highlights how easy it is to set up a website, with dud content. And it drives home the importance of teaching ourselves to be critical online readers and buyers.

Here are some more fake websites:

For even more examples, visit this and this page.

So how do you detect fake websites?
Mostly, you must rely on common sense and the knowledge that just because information looks legitimate does not in any way suggest that it is. If in doubt, use Google to search for the website name together with the words “spoof” or “fake” to see if anyone else has more information on the legitimacy of the site (but be cautious when evaluating even those references!). If you are having doubts, stay with those. Certainly do not hand over any credit card details unless you are assured of the legitimacy of the site and the product.

District 214 Library Services in the US also offers the following advice to weed out fake websites:

    1. Watch for statements that make no sense
    2. Check for words that are made up
    3. See if pictures make sense
    4. Watch out for images that look as though they have been altered
    5. Look for irony or satire in the text
    6. Look for exaggeration in the text
    7. Look for websites that look official but are not
    8. Look out for pure nonsense

Always use more than one source for your information, although remember that news spreads virally and fast on the web, so if the source of information is not vetted properly, the misinformation can just gain in credibility. For instance, CNN got duped by a photoshopped picture of Sarah Palin holding an AK-47 (which I believe isn’t even an AK 47 at all).

And teach your kids that not everything they read online is true. Now that anyone can publish pretty much anything online, it is more important than ever to don the critical hat. I know of university professors who intentionally dupe their students with fake websites to teach /show them how risky it is to trust everything you find online.

And remember, if it is too good, too bizarre, or too funny to be true, it probably isn’t true at all.

At least not always.