I’ll be honest, I sure am glad that I grew up before there were cameras and cell phones everywhere. When I see videos online of people doing stupid things, I breathe a sigh of relief that it’s not videos of me when I was young. I am glad that I was married before the internet existed for this same reason. Online dating looks like a bit of a nightmare. You never truly know what you are going to get. And now, with the catfish phenomenon, it’s even worse. Not to mention the risk it poses to your safety and security.
Are You Fishing for a Date? Or is a Catfish Fishing for You?
As I mentioned, I am married and have been for some time. So, I’ll be honest, the whole catfishing scheme is new to me. I met my wife back when you would spot a girl in a public place and have to muster the courage to say something to her. You also had to be willing and ready to accept rejection. But if you actually got her phone number, that was just the beginning.
But, with the internet, a lot of the risk of meeting someone is taken out of the equation. Or is it? With new technology comes new risks, such as scams. So, I did some research to help take some of the risks out of online dating. But meeting the right person will still be up to you. I just hope to help you not fall into the trap of the wrong person.
How To Tell If Someone’s a Catfish
First things first. To start, you have to learn how to know if a person is a catfish to avoid being catfished. Although it seems like it might not be a big deal, in 2020 alone there were 23,000 victims of catfishing. Between the 23,000 victims was a combined reported damage of more than $605 million. That’s an average of $26,304.00 per person.
Whether you know it or not, you have seen a catfish. I have seen catfish before I really even knew what that was. Like many people, I have received friend requests on social media that just didn’t look right, something was off. The running joke was “not today, Isis,” and move on.
However, to someone who is lonely and looking for companionship, knowing how to spot a catfish might not be so easy. Catfish key in on the need to find love and know how to push the right buttons. But if you’re aware, you can recognize that the buttons are a little too perfect and a little too on point.
Some red flags that might be signs someone is a catfish:
- A profile picture that looks like a model, maybe even taken by a professional
- The perfect name, maybe even reminiscent of a movie star
- An incredible personal background/life
- Very close in age
- Lives in the same region as you
Obviously, there are real-life models out there and sometimes these things really happen to people. So, let’s take a look at some other indicators of how to know if you’re being catfished.
How To Tell If You’re Being Catfished
Let’s say that all of the red flags above are in place, but you just aren’t sure if it really is a scam. So, the question remains, how can you find out if you are being catfished? Keep in mind, typically people who perform these kinds of scams are professionals and very good at it. But there are hallmarks to the scam that even they can’t avoid.
Right off the bat, the best place to start verifying the legitimacy of the profile is with the profile picture. Fortunately, Google reverse image search can help with that. Simply save the profile picture to your computer or device and run it through the reverse image search. If you find the image elsewhere online, odds are, the image was stolen by a scammer.
Likewise, take a deep look at their profile. If it is a new profile or they don’t have many friends, odds are it isn’t legit. Similarly, if there aren’t many posts on their profile, it might be a scam. That is not always the case, some people are just not much for social media (myself included). However, even people who are not big on social media still post legitimate things from time to time.
While you are researching their profile, also take a look at their friend’s profiles. Some scammers will create multiple profiles and like all of their other profiles, to make it look like they are legitimate. If their friend’s profiles are equally new or barren, they may be fake as well.
Warning Signs That You Are Being Catfished
- They avoid actual interaction, like video or phone calls
- You cannot find any signs of an online presence other than their profile
- Their profile has very few friends
- It is a recently created profile
- All of their pictures, including profile pictures, are professional photography
- The pictures are stolen (identified using Google Reverse Image Search)
- They start asking for money or explicit content
- There is always an excuse why you cannot visit in person
- The camera on their device is broken (they may even ask for money for a new device)
- The relationship escalates quickly (they are quick to start saying how much they love you or care for you)
- They play the victim (life has been hard and they just need a sympathetic friend)
- Trust is a big deal for them, and they just want to know you trust them
- They always seem to say exactly what you want to hear
- They seem too emotional (an attempt to appeal to your sense of humanity)
How To Avoid Online Dating Scams
As I said, scammers are professionals and are very good at what they do. In fact, many of these people don’t even live in the United States. However, all is not lost, there are still steps you can take to avoid being a victim of an online dating scam.
First, keep real communication. If they’re unwilling to speak with you in person or on video, then they do not get anything from you. You need to take a hard stance on this. Never give money to someone you haven’t met, and even then, be skeptical.
Second, like I have been hitting home for most of this article, beware of their profile photos. If they look too good to be true, they might be too good to be true. However, not all scammers will use professional-looking photos, some are aware of how that looks. So, always make sure to search for the photo on Google. Even if it looks like it could be legit.
Third, be very selective about what information you share, don’t share everything about yourself right off the bat. It is ok to be careful with your personal information. This even goes for legitimate conversations. Sometimes intrigue is a good thing.
Fourth, be direct with them. It’s better to lose a possible relationship than to keep a catfish on the line.
Fifth, ask a lot of questions. Many scammers have pre-set answers to general questions. So, the more questions you ask, the more you can work past their script.
Finally, if you do give them money, never pay them in Bitcoin, you cannot get that back. Once you send that payment, it is gone forever. Make sure to use something with some form of fraud protection or stop payment options.
Take It Slow
Overall, the best piece of advice is to take things slow. Even if the person is getting you excited and you feel alive, that’s all the more reason to slow down. The best relationships in life take a long time to develop. If it feels like they are going too fast, there may be a reason for that.
Take care out there and stay safe.