The internet provides the perfect environment for a digital bottom feeder – the catfish. Catfish are people who create a fake identity across social media networks with the sole purpose of deception or fraud.
Catfishing is most commonly used for romance scams on dating sites. In fact, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) reports that 1 in every 7 online dating profiles are fake. Catfish often use an individual’s loneliness and desire for companionship to manipulate them and compromise their victim in some way.
5 Simple Ways to Spot a Catfish
The proverb ‘if something seems too good to be true, it probably is’ is the perfect warning that you’re being catfished. Of course it is normal to showcase the best of you when you meet someone new but catfish are nothing short of perfection – they use images of models for their profile which means that they are often drop-dead gorgeous.
They are also willing to invest a lot of time in their victims to make them feel validated and special which dispels any doubts or misgivings they may have had at the start. Here are a few simple ways to spot a catfish:
Check For Social Media Red Flags
Check for the basic social media red flags such as very high/ low engagement and follower count. If the person has thousands of followers or very few followers and a consistently high/low engagement rate, it’s likely that it is a fake account. You should also check the comments to see whether they are legitimate and relevant and not just comments from other fake accounts.
Another red flag is an abundance of professional-grade photos such as headshots, comp cards and portfolio pics but no candid pics with friends or family. While online dating is as good as traditional dating, it is important to verify who the person is in real life.
Use Reverse Image Search
One of the easiest ways to do a quick and easy reverse image search is to use Google Reverse Image Search. You can right click on the photo you want to search for and then copy-paste the URL in the search box in the box at images.google.com. Google will search for the image and return the results for other sources of that image.
Although this is a pretty reliable method, you will not be able to use it for Instagram images as they are not indexed. Another easy way to do a reverse image search is to use an app such as Veracity (for iOS) which can find the original image from one that has been cropped or edited. Image Raider is another good option for android and iOS as it combines the search image results from Google, Bing and Yandex.
Ask For A Selfie In The Moment
When you meet someone online who seems perfect, the last thing you want to do is scare them away. One of the simplest ways to make sure that the person is who they say they are is to ask them for a selfie when they mention that they are at a well-known location.
This will ensure that the person you are chatting with is not in some unknown corner of the world trying to lure you into a trap. If the person has sent you pics and selfies in the past but refuses your request, you will need to ask yourself why.
Request A Videocall
If you’re investing your time in someone to create a lasting relationship, you should set up a video call before you meet them. You can suggest Skype, Facetime or Snapchat as a live video chat is a simple way to find out if you’re being catfished.
If the person makes up excuses repeatedly, you need to be wary. If the person you are talking to is a woman, it’s possible that she’s just being cautious so don’t insist on a video chat right away. However, if you’ve been chatting frequently for several weeks, then you should broach the subject.
They Ask For Money
There is absolutely no reason why someone you’ve met online should ask you for money. Catfish excel at manipulation and will create elaborate lies to show you that you are the only one who can help them. Any request for financial aid is a cause for concern. While most people who make such requests are catfish, it is important to remember that not all catfish will ask for money. According to phys.org researchers, 41% of the respondents said that loneliness was the reason for their catfishing as they wanted to be more popular.
How to Avoid being Catfished
The first rule to all online communication is to use the same logic that you would use in the real world. If a stranger knocked on your front door and wanted to come in just to chat, you’d slam the door shut in their fact. In the same way, if someone you don’t know contacts you online, you need to keep your guard up.
Another common mistake that people make is to get too close too quickly, which is understandable considering that they feel isolated and are overjoyed to make a connection. When you connect with someone new, take your time to get to know them as most catfish will move off looking for easier prey.
Make it clear right from the get-go that you have boundaries and that if they don’t respect them, you are not interested in continuing the conversation. If you’ve decided to use online dating sites, do your homework on each of them.
Catfish target both men and women and the threat that they pose is very real. While some might use catfishing for financial gain, others use it to obtain intimate photos of their victims which they can use to blackmail them. Victims of catfish, especially women suffer from lasting effects to their overall health and wellness due to the stress and anxiety of their ordeal. While there is no way to guarantee that you will never be catfished, these tips will definitely reduce the risk and help protect you in your quest to meet new people.