How to Spot Fake Torrent File Downloads

Don't get fooled into downloading viruses & codec scam files

Image of people watching a movie with a scary or inappropriate scene
Rodriguez / Getty

Scammers and dishonest P2P individuals use fake torrent file downloads to phish for your identity, trick you out of your money, or vandalize your computers through malware infections.

Fortunately, you can prevent this from happening to you. There are some obvious signs that a torrent file you're looking at is fake, or should at very least be dealt with carefully.

Below are 10 tips to help you spot a fake torrent movie or music file. Also, be sure to check out our continually updated list of top torrent sites!

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Beware Seeds but No or Few Comments

Screenshot of a torrent with high seed count and no comments

Abusive uploaders will often falsify the number of seeds and peers that are available. Using software tools like BTSeedInflator, these abusers will make their torrents look like 10,000 or more users are sharing it.

If you see these kinds of massive seed/peer numbers, but there are no user comments on the file, you would be wise to avoid that file!

Any true torrent that has more than a few thousand seeds should also have a fair number of positive user comments. If not, you're probably looking at a fake or bad torrent.

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Check for Verified Status on the Torrent

Screenshot of a verified torrent file

Some torrent sites actually employ a committee of core users to confirm and 'verify' torrents.

While these verified files are small in number, they are more likely valid torrent files that can be trusted. Typically, 'verified' torrent files should be safe to download.

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Confirm the Movie Release Date with a Third Party

Screenshot of finding a movie release date on IMDB

For brand new movie torrents, take a minute to visit IMDB and verify the release date.

If the torrent has been released before the actual movie date, then don't trust it.

Sure, there's a possibility that it could be the real thing, but much more often it's a fake torrent file, so beware.

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You Can Usually Trust AVI and MKV Files (but Avoid WMA and WMV Files)

Screenshot of searching for MKV movies

For the most part, true movie files are in either the AVI or MKV format.

The majority of torrent files in WMA and WMV format are fake. While there are some that are authentic, files that end in the .wma and .wmv extensions usually will link to other sites where you're coerced to get paid codecs or malware downloads.

It's better to avoid those types of files completely.

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Be Careful With RAR, TAR, & ACE Files

Screenshot of MS Office torrents in RAR format

Yes, there are legit uploaders who use RAR archives to share files, but for movies and music, the majority of RAR and other archived files are fake.

Torrent site abusers use the RAR format to conceal Trojan style malware and codec scam files. The video or software you're downloading is already compressed, so there's no need to compress it further.

If you see an attractive torrent movie file or software download that's in the RAR, TAR, or ACE format, be very careful and examine its listed file contents before you download or unpacking the files.

If there is no list of the contents, do not trust the file. If the file list is disclosed, but it includes an EXE or other text-based instructions (more on those below), then move on.

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Always Read the Comments

Screenshot of Torrent file comments on PirateBay

Some torrent sites like PirateBay will capture user comments on individual files. This works like feedback on eBay where comments from other eBay users can give you a sense of how legitimate the file is.

If you see no comments on a file, be suspicious. If you see any negative comments on the file, then move on and find a better torrent.

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Beware of Password Instructions, Special Instructions, or EXE Files

Screenshot of a torrent with special instructions

If you see a file in the movie/music torrent that says 'password', 'special instructions', 'codec instructions', 'unrar instructions, 'important read me first', 'download instructions here', then the risk that this torrent is a scam or fake is very high.

The person spreading this file is likely looking to redirect you to a shady website to download a dubious movie player as a precondition to opening the movie file.

Additionally, if there is an EXE or other executable file included, then most certainly avoid that torrent download. Executable files for movies and music should be a giant red flag!

EXE files and any passwords or special download instructions are likely a sign that you should find a better torrent download elsewhere.

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Avoid Using the Following Software

Screenshot of the BitThief website

Some torrent software clients have earned a bad reputation for seeding malware, fraudulent codec downloaders, keyloggers, and Trojans.

Our readers have repeatedly advised us to warn against using BitLord, BitThief, Get-Torrent, TorrentQ, Torrent101, and Bitroll.

Let us know if you disagree or have others for the list!

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Beware Trackers that Can't Be Found on Google

Screenshot of torrent tracker details on Google

Open the published torrent details, and copy-paste the tracker names into Google. If a tracker is legitimate, you'll see a number of Google hits where many torrent sites point to the copy-pasted tracker.

If the tracker is fake or malicious, you will find many unrelated hits on Google, often with the words 'fake' as P2P users post warnings on various sites and forums about that fake tracker.

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Only Use These Media Players

Screenshot of the Windows Media Player

These are plenty of trusted, free movie and music players for Windows, Mac, Linux, and your smartphone.

A few include WinAmp, Windows Media Player (WMP), VLC Media Player, GMPLayer, and KMPlayer... among others.

Do a quick Google search for any media player you're not familiar with. With so many reputable options, don't risk downloading and installing something you've never heard of. It might end up being nothing but malware!