What is Catfishing?
People share the intrinsic need to feel cared about, desired, or special. The internet and cell phones have created ways for people to seek those feelings without actual physical contact. Online dating, gaming, texting and chat rooms leave people susceptible to dangerous situations and abuse. In our search to feel desired, understood and validated we forget to protect ourselves and become an open book to people who are only out for their own personal gain.
We all want to share our “personal best” when we meet someone though social media. When someone sets out to blatantly deceive you, that is deliberate abusive behavior. A new phrase has been created to define this behavior. It is called Catfishing.
WhatIs.com defines Catfishing as, “Someone who creates a false online identity. Catfishing is common on social networking and online dating sites. Sometimes a Catfish’s sole purpose is to engage in a fantasy. Sometimes, however, the Catfish’s intent is to defraud a victim, seek revenge, or even commit identity theft. Either way, a Catfish exploits the fact that people are often willing to ignore warning signs that a friend or acquaintance may not be who they claim to be. In an online relationship, such signs include refusals to meet in person, refusals to video chat, claims of a serious disease or injury, unusually attractive profile images, personal information that doesn’t add up, or requests for money.”
Some tips from loveisrespect.org
What To Watch Out For
It’s a good idea to be aware when using social media or online dating sites that it’s possible you could come across a Catfish. But how do you know if you’re dealing with one? Here are some signs to look for:
• He or she is “too good to be true.” If a random person contacts you and claims to be a model or celebrity, with super-hot pictures to match, or their life and interests match up perfectly with yours, you might want to be a little skeptical. Not that attractive people wouldn’t be interested in you, of course! But it’s a common tactic of Catfish to steal photos of models and celebrities in order to flatter someone into not asking too many questions.
• Avoiding face-to-face. They won’t Skype or use a webcam to talk with you, or they repeatedly cancel in-person meetings at the last minute. If they’re avoiding talking to you face-to-face, it could be a red flag.
• They have a profile that looks new or incomplete. If you can tell that their Facebook profile was just created, or they’re not tagged in any pictures anywhere, these could be signs that they aren’t a real person.
• They ask you to send them money. Don’t send anyone money if you’ve never met them in real life and don’t know them well – they’re most likely scamming you.
• They profess their love for you really quickly. Like in the real world, it’s ok to take things slow online and get to know a person. It’s easy to get caught up in a new relationship, but if the other person is moving fast and getting serious, it could be a red flag. Often they’re just trying to play on your emotions.
• They give you information that doesn’t add up. For example, in one story featured on Catfish the TV show, the Catfish told his victim that he was taking correspondence courses to become an anesthesiologist. Becoming an anesthesiologist requires an advanced medical degree and can’t be done over the internet. Pay attention to what the person is telling you, and if something sounds, um, fishy, well…it probably is.
What You Should Do
If you think someone you’re talking to online might not be who they say they are, there are a few ways you can attempt to find out the truth:
• Often, the best first step is to Google the person’s name. If nothing comes up, or if you get a bunch of odd results that don’t seem to match up to what the person has told you, then there’s a good chance you’re talking to a Catfish.
• Do a reverse Google image search for the person’s profile image, which can reveal where it might really come from.
• Send a message to the person’s Facebook friends or other contacts linked to their profile. You might write something like, “Hi, I’ve been chatting online with this person, and I was wanting to get to know some of their friends. How long have you known each other?”
• Ask lots of questions – where they grew up, schools they went to, where they like to go on the weekends. Search around on the web to confirm if what they’re telling you is true (Is that high school actually in that town?). If they don’t want to talk about themselves – but ask YOU a lot of questions instead – they may be trying to avoid revealing who they really are.
If you find out you’ve been Catfished, or even if you’re not sure, you might feel like you can’t trust the other person, even if you had developed a relationship online. It can be very confusing: should you move on, or try to make the relationship work now that you know the truth? When trust has been broken in any relationship, it takes time and effort from both people to heal. You might have to take a few steps back and get to know the person – the real person – all over again. Remember, trust is something that can be given and taken, but not necessarily “earned” back, and you’ll have to determine for yourself whether you can or should trust the other person.”
Tips from Dr. Phil
Dating Red Flags: Warning Signs of a Catfish
With more than 40 million men and women online looking for love, there are bound to be some scam artists out there. A “catfish” is a person who creates a false online identity in the hopes of luring people into romantic relationships. Nev Schulman starred in the 2010 documentary, Catfish, about being drawn in by a woman online claiming to be someone she wasn’t. Now the executive producer of Catfish: The TV Show on MTV, he advises you to think before you begin your next online relationship.
Look out for these early warning signs that your love interest may not be who they say they are:
The Modeling Profession
If anyone says they are a model, watch out. It means that they are recognized as a very attractive person. If the person you are talking to says they are a model, but also has another amazing career, he or she may be too good to be true. Models are generally very busy and travel a lot. Also, it’s easy enough for a scam artist to access model photos online and post as their own.
If a person’s profile has fewer than 100 friends, and more specifically, if there are photos of the person with other people but the other people aren’t tagged, be cautious. These may be pictures taken off an unsuspecting person’s profile.
Traumatic Injuries and/or Illness
We see car accidents, deaths in the family and cancer a lot in catfish scams. This is very common because the best way to avoid meeting up is by having a traumatic experience. It will make the other person say, “Oh, my God, don’t worry about meeting with me now. I will just wait until you are better.” This is a way of tugging at your heartstrings and making you feel guilty. “Sympathy is an incredibly strong emotion,” Nev says.
If a person can’t immediately send you pictures of themselves in this day and age, then you should proceed with caution. “You’ve got to expect and require them to show you to some degree that this is who they are,” he says.
If a person cannot get to a webcam after repeated requests and attempts, then this is an early potential warning sign that they are trying to avoid you seeing who they really are.