What is Catfishing and How You Can Avoid Being Duped?

Posted on by Dawna M. Roberts in SecurityJanuary 13, 2021

Catfishing Definition

Online dating has become very popular, and many couples find each other through structured dating apps or social media connections. However, unlike meeting someone the old-fashioned way, meeting, and getting to know someone online presents its own unique dangers. One of those is catfishing.


What Is Catfishing Someone Online?

If you are a fan of true crime, you have probably heard of catfishing, whether or not you hear that word. Catfishing refers to the practice of someone creating a fake online profile and interacting with others pretending to be someone they are not. It happens way more often than you might think. 

Catfishing is more prevalent on social media and dating websites. So, if you meet new people online, keep an eye out for this devious predator. 

Why Do People Do It?

Some people might create false identities because they feel like no one would like them if they presented their true selves online. Others, however, have more dubious purposes in mind. Hackers, thieves, and other cybercriminals often use catfishing to lure victims into offering up money, personal information for identity theft, or worse. The primary purpose is usually to scam someone, but others want to actually physically harm or torture their victims. 

Signs You Are Being Catfished: Tips to Be Aware of

You may have talked to someone online and had this nagging feeling that something just didn’t add up. You were probably being catfished and didn’t know it. Some signs that someone is a “catfish” and not who they say they are, include:

1. Refuse to Speak on the Phone or Meet in Person

A big red flag is when someone refuses to speak with you on the phone. They are happy texting and emailing, but when you push to speak, they keep making excuses. If you think you are talking to a 20-year-old man, a phone call might reveal it’s a 45-year-old woman in another state. Scammers often don’t want their victims to hear their accents if they are operating from a foreign country. These scammers will also do anything to keep from meeting in person unless, of course, they have nefarious acts on their minds.

2. Online Social Profile is Missing Friends and Information/Details

Check out the person’s online profiles. If their social media is sparse or missing any friends and photos, let that be a warning, something is off right there. Even the loneliest people usually have some information in their social media profiles and a few friends. 

3. Photos are Fake or Missing

Do a Google reserve image lookup to check to make sure their picture is really of them. Many catfishes find online images of models or other stock photos and use those in their profiles to trick you. Missing images could also be an indication of fraud. 

4. Things Don’t Add Up

If the details of your conversations don’t seem to add up and information changes, keep an eye on things. If the person says they live in Oklahoma but then refer to other places or their IP location pings in another country, be watchful. 

5. Things Move too Fast

Often as a way to gain trust, catfishers will profess deep feelings very quickly, even before they get to know you. If things move at a rapid pace, without any real reason, and you haven’t even met yet, keep a lid on your feelings before you check this person out thoroughly. You could be the victim of catfishing.

6. They Ask for Money or Use Sad Stories to Get Something They Want

Catfishers use elaborate stories of family members who are ill, sudden injuries or hardships, and they just need you to “front them a loan,” and they’ll pay you back. Almost all of these stories are lies and meant only to steal your money. If you do send them anything, you’ll never see it again and they will probably disappear as well. 

If they ask you to send them money by wire transfer or in the form of gift cards, this is a huge sign of a scam

7. They are Always Traveling for Work


To keep up the ruse so you won’t press them to meet, these criminals will often claim they travel for work and are out of the country. Many use the story of being in the military overseas. 

8. Poor Grammar and Spelling

Many dating scams are perpetrated by men in South Africa and other out of country locations. Therefore, English isn't their first language, so their messages may be poorly constructed with spelling, punctuation, and grammar errors. Let this warning guide you to make a safe choice. 

How You Can Stay Safe

Your best defense against catfishing is common sense. If someone seems too good to be true, they probably are. Never give someone personal information or money without knowing who you are dealing with. 

Consider running a full background check and using tools like InfoTracer to do a deep dive into who you are conversing with before you hand over your heart or any money. 

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