Catfishing is a deceptive activity where a person creates a fake identity on a social network account, usually targeting a specific victim for deception or fraud. It’s commonly used in romance scams on dating websites for financial gain or to compromise a victim in some way.
The person with the fake identity can catfish another user on the internet, fooling them into believing they’re the person they portray themselves as. They usually use another person's photos and life facts to make them appear as a real person. Often, the real person who is being used for the fake identity doesn’t even know they’re having their name and photo used.
Catfishing can be used to attract a person from the internet and allow them to meet in person or to lure them to a place where they can kidnap them or hurt them in some other way. Sexual predators use such fake identities to talk to teens, allowing them to get close to them so they can win their trust. It’s then very easy for the predator to get information from the victim, which can be used to harm them.
The website, socialcatfish.com is a good resource to help avoid becoming the victim of catfishing. Below are a few of the most important tips listed on the website:
- Be suspicious if someone contacts you out of the blue. Think about it. If someone you don’t know is contacting you online, there’s probably a motive for it. They’re usually trying to deceive you by faking their identity to scam you out of your money – or worse.
- Don’t share personal information. This gives the person leverage or means to blackmail you if you try to call them out or report them. It might also help them get information they can use to hack your personal accounts, such as social media, email and even your bank accounts.
- Don’t ever give them money. If you send money to someone, make sure it’s someone you know. Never give money to someone you just met online.
- Ask for proof. If you’ve been talking to someone for a while and there is some love interest on your part, you have every right to see their identification, see them in person or even run their credit.
- Date people that you can meet. Meet people who live close enough to you. Don’t fall for stories that they’re out of town or out of the country. Just make sure you meet in a public place and always let a friend know when and where you’re going.
- Use a video chat service. Make sure you’re able to see the person’s face. By using a video chat service, you can see the person you’re talking to, and it’s another way to avoid being a victim of catfishing.
- Always trust your instincts. If you meet someone online and they tell all sorts of far-fetched stories that don’t make sense or seem weird, it’s most likely not true. In almost all cases of catfishing, the victims had suspicions. Always trust your instincts and do your research.