Catfishing On the Internet: What Is It?

Catfishing

You’ve probably heard of “catfishing,” especially if you use social media or dating websites. Catfishing is when a person pretends to be someone else to trick another person. People who catfish do so for many reasons, including trying to prove a partner is cheating, using it to scam someone, or using it to cyberstalk or cyberbully someone.

How It Works

Catfishers use social media sites to trick others. They often use dating sites, although other social media websites like Snapchat, Facebook and Instagram are used to make people think they’re someone else. Here’s an example from a dating website.

Joan signs up on a dating website. She fills out her information and posts her picture. Joan receives messages almost immediately. Joan has high hopes for meeting new people. She looks at pictures and answers messages. It’s not long before Joan notices strange behavior from some of the men. Here are some things noticed by Joan:

Bad English

Many scammers are not native English speakers. It’s obvious when you talk to a person who doesn’t know what words to use. Joan notices that they use the wrong words, can’t make full sentences, use the wrong tense, or confuse words like there, they’re, and their. Non-English speakers usually don’t use contractions.

Profile Pictures

Joan gets messages from people that don’t have a profile picture. Sometimes there is a real reason for not posting a picture, such as his job, but it usually means that the person is married or not who he claims to be.

Some men look like movie stars. If a picture looks professional or familiar, chances are it’s fake. Do a reverse image search to find out if the person is real. You can upload the picture into an app or website and search.

The Catfishing Story

Scammers use the same stories over and over. Stories include the person losing his family in an accident, being stranded, or having lost his wife and being left with a young child. If a story sounds familiar, copy and paste some of it into a search engine.

Moving Too Fast

Scammers want money…fast. When catfishing, people will say anything to gain your trust and steal from you as soon as possible. Poetry, gifts and words of love are some ways in which a scammer will try to win you over. If you respond to the gestures, the scammer will try harder to win you over.

The Scam

Once a catfisher has gained your trust, he will ask you for something. It starts with something small, such as a gift card. If you give what he is asking for, the next gift will be something bigger and grow larger with each request.

Protecting Yourself

Fortunately, Joan reads a lot of articles about online dating  and catfishing and has prepared herself. She immediately refuses all requests for money or gifts, blocks unknown callers from her phone, and insists on meeting in public.

If you find yourself in a similar situation, proceed with care and trust your intuition.