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What is Catfishing and How You Can Avoid Being Duped?

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

Catfishing Definition - What is Catfishing?

The meaning of catfishing is someone using a false identity to trick a person for various reasons. Online dating apps have become very popular, and many couples find each other through structured dating sites or social media connections. However, unlike meeting someone the old-fashioned way (in real life), meeting and getting to know someone online presents its own unique dangers. One of the biggest dangers of an online relationship 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 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 platforms and dating websites. So, if you meet new people online, keep an eye out for this devious predator who will do anything to keep you from finding out about his or her true identity.

What is Catfishing Online and Why Do People Catfish?

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

Signs You Are Being Catfished: Tips to Be Aware of

You may be involved in an online relationship and have this nagging feeling that something just didn’t add up. You were probably being catfished and didn’t know it. Some warning 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, join a video chat, or meet up in person. They are happy texting and emailing, but when you push to speak or do a video call, 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. Never trust a romantic relationship with someone you have never met in person.

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

Check out the person’s online profiles. If their social media account information is sparse or missing any friends, photos, or selfies, let that be a warning, something is off right there. Even the loneliest people usually have some information on their social media profiles and a few friends. Experts estimate that more than 1.7 billion Facebook profiles are fake accounts.

3. Photos are Fake or Missing

Do a Google reverse image search to check to ensure their picture is of a real person, not a magazine ad. Many catfish profiles are filled with images of models or other stock photos and use those as their profile pictures to trick you. Missing images could also be an indication of fraud. Scour social media sites carefully, looking for a real profile rather than a fake online persona.

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 refers 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. This is a big red flag of a romance scam. They hook you in with pretty words and a take partnership and then hit you up for money.

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. As part of your internet safety protocols, always be on the defensive, watching out for catfishers. Check out the MTV documentary catfish to learn more.

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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