What is catfishing online & how to catch it

Online dating is the new norm for many people because it’s easy to match with people at your fingertips. Can you ever really know who you’re talking to online? Even if you haven’t seen the documentary or the popular TV show, catfishing happens more often than you might think.
Haven’t heard of catfishing? Don’t worry we will tell you all you need to know so you don’t get reeled in.

by Montanna Owens
Woman’s hands holding smartphone
Met someone new online? Make sure they’re not a catfish first!

What is catfishing online?

The definition of catfishing is a deceptive act in which someone creates an online persona or fake identity on social media to network with others. Catfishing can have many different outcomes because the cause of why someone is catfishing is not always the same. Some catfish are in it for financial gain, to cause emotional harm to the victim, or in serious cases lure someone to being kidnapped or physically harmed. 

Why do people catfish?

Understanding the mind of a catfish is difficult because people catfish for different reasons. For example, a catfish can be a person you went to high school with, and they have held a crush for you for the past 20 years. They are too shy to talk to you directly so they go online, find pictures of someone they think you will find attractive, create a fake profile, and send you a friend request.

Other catfish might not know you personally at all. A lot of the times it is a complete stranger that is trying to scam you out of money, hurt your feelings, or build a relationship just to one day end it abruptly. They all can be quite hurtful.

The goal of a catfish is to assume the persona of someone better than themselves or someone more attractive than themselves. Their fake identity helps them to persuade victims and easily form relationships with victims because they are too good to be true. Many catfish are actually people that are very lonely and that contributes greatly to their reasoning of seeking out people online.

What does it mean to catfish someone?

Online catfishing occurs on many social media platforms especially since people now have access to endless photos of others and ways to hide their identity. To catfish someone means to actively create a fake identity and engage with victims for monetary gain or emotional gain. Sometimes it can be hard to detect a catfish; however, they all operate on the same foundation. They firstly locate a person to use for their fake persona. This can be stock photos, photos of a family member or even photos of a friend. Once they have selected a persona, they then make a social media account with that person’s photos and any other fake information to make the profile interesting, attractive, and appear real. Lastly, they start to seek out their victim by sending friend requests, messages, etc.

How to catch a catfish online

I know you’re wondering how to tell if someone is a catfish. Get your fishing rods out, we are going catfishing!
  1. Reverse image search: Take an image from their profile, save it, and paste it into an image search software like Google or Chrome. If you search is successful, it’ll show you everywhere their image has appeared before.
  2. Ask them personal things: Sooner or later you will catch them in a lie or something they told you just does not add up to what they have said previously. This is where most catfish slip up!
  3. Ask for a specific picture: Ask them to send you a picture of them holding a spoon on their nose. The photo request has to be specific because you want to verify if it is really them or if they are using photoshop.
  4. They have only a few pictures: Sometimes you might ask for a new picture and they send you a photo that you have seen already on their profile. They usually counter with “ I don’t take photos often.”
  5. Ask them for a video call: A catfish will almost always refuse to video chat as it will reveal their identity. They also might agree to the video call but every time it should take place something is suddenly wrong with their camera, device, microphone or etc. 

How to avoid being catfished

Don’t fall victim to a catfishing scam of your money, time, or emotions. These tips will help you avoid being catfished:
  1. Always be cautious and suspicious of people that you meet online. Especially be suspicious if they message you first and their photos or profile looks too good to be true.
  2. Do not send anything to anyone you have only met online. This includes money or even photos of yourself. Many catfish can take your photos you send a create a new fake profile to catfish someone else at the same time.
  3. Speak with people online that you already know in person or have met. Don’t be so trusting of new people introducing themselves to you online.
  4. Consult a friend about your new online friend. Talking to someone you trust about your online relationship can help you determine if you’re being catfished and also being safe online.
  5. Never share too much personal information about yourself. You are not sure if you’re being catfished or not, and sharing personal information about yourself can make you vulnerable in the case that someone wants to dox you or locate you.
Pro tip: Catfish are sneaky and deceptive, who’s to say these same scammers won’t go to other online scamming techniques. If they send you any random URLs to steal your data, our previous article tells you how to check if the URL is safe here.  

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First time hearing about romance scams? Our blog article gives you all you need to know about romance scams, even a real-life example. You can check it out here.

Want to find out more ways to protect yourself from scams online? You can use the mail.com search engine to look up all scams.

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