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 Images

Scammers and dishonest P2P individuals use fake torrent file downloads to phish for identities, trick people out of money, or vandalize computers through malware infections. There are some signs that a torrent file is fake, or should at very least be dealt with carefully. Here 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.

Beware Seeds but No or Few Comments

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

No comments button on Torrent site

If you see these kinds of massive seed or peer numbers, but there are no user comments on the file, avoid that file. Any torrent that has more than a few thousand seeds should also have a fair number of positive user comments. If not, it may be a fake or bad torrent.

Check for Verified Status on the Torrent

Some torrent sites employ a committee of core users to confirm and verify torrents. While these verified files are small in number, these are likely valid torrent files that can be trusted. Typically, verified torrent files are safe to download.

Verified symbol on Torrent site

Confirm the Movie Release Date with a Third Party

For new movie torrents, visit IMDB and verify the release date of the movie. If the torrent was released before the actual movie date, don't trust it. There's a possibility that it could be the real thing, but often it's a fake torrent file, so beware.

IMDB page with movie release date

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

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.

mkv file listing on Torrent site

While there are some that are authentic, files that end in the .wma and .wmv extensions usually link to other sites where visitors are coerced into paid codecs or malware downloads. It's better to avoid those types of files completely.

Be Careful With RAR, TAR, & ACE Files

There are legitimate 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 downloaded from a torrent site is compressed, so there's no need to compress it further.

rar file on Torrent site

If a torrent movie file or software download is in the RAR, TAR, or ACE format, be very careful and examine its listed file contents before you download or unpack the files. If there isn't a 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), don't download it. EXE files exist on your computer, such as IAStorIcon.exe, but viruses can often be disguised as these files online.

Always Read the Comments

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

Comments section on a Torrent site

If you don't see any comments on a file, be suspicious. If you see negative comments on the file, then move on and find a better torrent.

Beware of Password Instructions, Special Instructions, or EXE Files

If you see a file in a movie or music torrent that says any of the following, the torrent is probably a scam or fake:

  • Password
  • Special instructions
  • Codec instructions
  • Unrar instructions
  • Important read me first
  • Download instructions here

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

Use the key generator comment on a Torrent 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 red flag. EXE files and passwords or download instructions are a sign that you should find a better torrent download elsewhere.

Avoid Using the Following Software

Some torrent software clients have earned a bad reputation for seeding malware, fraudulent codec downloaders, keyloggers, and Trojans. Some of these torrent clients include BitLord, BitThief, Get-Torrent, TorrentQ, Torrent101, and Bitroll.

Screenshot of the BitThief website

Beware of Trackers that Can't Be Found on Google

Open the published torrent details, copy the tracker name, and paste the tracker name in Google. If a tracker is legitimate, Google results will display many torrent sites that point to the tracker.

Screenshot of torrent tracker details on Google

If the tracker is fake or malicious, there will be unrelated results on Google that indicate that the torrent is fake. P2P users post warnings on various sites and forums about fake trackers.

Only Use These Media Players

There are trusted and free movie and music players for Windows, Mac, Linux, and smartphones. A few include WinAmp, Windows Media Player (WMP), VLC Media Player, GMPLayer, and KMPlayer.

Screenshot of the Windows Media Player

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.