Catfishing is a form of cybercrime in which an individual assumes a false identity to gain a romantic, financial, or social advantage.
The motivation for this deception can be as simple as a need to gain someone's trust or a desire to manipulate others.
Sometimes a catfisher commits identity theft to harm the image of the true identity owner.
In most cases, catfishers induce a potential victim to form an emotional connection with them. It is often done under false pretenses of falling in love or sharing common interests.
The scammer then uses the newly-formed relationship to advance their personal goals without the unsuspecting victim's knowledge.
Catfishers can also be after a financial gain, such as stealing a victim's identity to commit other crimes.
Have your ever read real-life stories in which people recount someone using their credit card for unauthorized big purchases or taking out loans? If you have, you're already familiar with one of the ways catfishers operate.
- Catfishing Example
- Why Is It Called Catfishing?
- How Catfishing Works
- Why Would People Catfish?
- Signs You Are Being A Victim of Catfishing
- 1. They Avoid Phone/Video Calls and Voice Messages
- 2. They Avoid Meeting Up
- 3. They Have A Small Circle of Online Friends
- 4. They Do Not Have Many Photos
- 5. They Post Only Professional or General Pictures
- 6. They Make Mistakes In Their Stories
- 7. They Do Not Share Much Personal Information
- 8. They Openly Ask You For Money
- 9. They Are Too Good To Be True
- 10. They Are Over The Top
A shocking story about catfishing was recently reported by Vice News. They call it "The world's most complex catfishing scam", and you will understand why once you see it:
Why Is It Called Catfishing?
The term catfishing became popular with the launch of the 2010 documentary film "Catfishing" and later the MTV "Catfish" reality series.
The creator of the documentary, Nev Schulman, shared his experience of having an online relationship with a woman called Megan Faccio. Schulman later found out that Megan was a false persona and that the relationship was a scam.
Hence, the term has been mainly used to describe people who fall victim to online romance scams or online scams in general.
How Catfishing Works
Catfishing involves using social media to fabricate a fake persona through fake profiles, fictitious characters, false photographs, and information. Sometimes catfishers borrow someone's photos and fill out personal details on work, education, and hobbies to make this persona appear more genuine.
The scammer's next move is to create an online relationship with their victim by throwing out the bait - sending friend requests, messages, or images.
They can pretend to be single, divorced, or a single parent seeking a friendly or romantic relationship. It is not uncommon to pose as a military member with a lost limb to evoke the victim's pity.
If a catfisher manages to engage the victim in a conversation, they start playing their game.
Catfishers are great at taking advantage of people who feel lonely, isolated, or depressed. They try their best to connect with someone seeking love, support, and companionship.
A catfisher faking to be in love with an individual uses flirting techniques over text, romantic messages, and emotional support to gain their prey's trust. They'll do everything to make you believe they're the type of person you want to date or marry.
Catfishing scams have also been associated with internet predators, tricking people in order to gain access to their personal information and credit cards.
A victim of catfishing does not realize they are being conned until too late. Some spend months or years trying to recover, while others never accept they were swindled. Lots of them give up on finding the con as they feel embarrassed and take no legal action.
Why Would People Catfish?
People can do catfishing for different reasons. Here are the most common ones:
Lack of self-esteem
Catfishing is usually done as a means of self-validation. When someone is catfishing, they are usually doing so to conceal a flaw or boost their self-esteem by creating a fake identity.
Inventing a successful career, happy life events, and posting good-looking false pictures on the internet indicate the person is insecure and dissatisfied with their life.
Related: Is My Boyfriend Cheating?
The desire to hide one's true identity can appear for numerous reasons. Though it can be a wide and diverse realm, one common issue associated with online catfishing is the individual's intent to deceive their partner. Other cited reasons are trolling, cyberbullying, and money extortion.
There were cases where people diagnosed with depression or anxiety became catfishers. The feeling of being lonely, scared, and not good enough enticed them to create a fictitious online profile and engage in a false relationship.
Related: Love Bombing
Personal vendetta involves a scammer angry at a former friend or lover. What better way of getting revenge on your ex than to trick him into dating a fictional persona?
In some cases, the person catfishing wants to exact their revenge on the person whose identity they have stolen. By pretending to be that person, a scammer may damage that person's reputation by leaving posts or comments to make him look bad.
If you are not happy with someone texting you on social media platforms, you can simply block him. For some people, it means going a step further and setting up several online profiles on social networking sites. If the victim accepts a new friend request, their harassment will likely continue.
Having a fake profile on social networks enables a person to experiment with their sexuality. By using a false online identity, a catfisher is able to explore the sexual world without fear of being exposed or judged, for that matter.
Teenagers are usually fond of pranks, so they find catfishing as a way of pulling them on their friends or less popular kids. Sometimes the intent is sheer amusement. Unfortunately, it can also be to make someone feel embarrassed and humiliated.
Sexual predators can use catfishing to lure minors into thinking they are chatting with their peers. Many predators will use this technique to dig for personal information, build rapport, and manipulate victims’ emotions.
Signs You Are Being A Victim of Catfishing
You met this wonderful person online and developed an emotional relationship with them. Everything was peachy until they became suddenly shy and withdrawn. They have been avoiding your invitations to meet up or talk over the phone.
You feel like everything has changed. Is it a fake relationship? Have you fallen prey to catfishing?
Keep reading to learn the warning signs of a catfishing scam.
1. They Avoid Phone/Video Calls and Voice Messages
A catfisher will always come up with an excuse not to answer your phone/video calls and voice messages. These excuses can range from their mic or webcam being broken to being too busy.
They might claim to be too shy or ashamed of their looks. In any case, they will try to avoid anything where they have to show their face in order to hide their real identity.
2. They Avoid Meeting Up
If your romantic partner lives far away, they might be reluctant at first to meet up in person. However, if they are constantly refusing your invitation to meet up or video chat, it could be a sign that you are the victim of catfishing.
3. They Have A Small Circle of Online Friends
Catfishers do not have many friends on social media sites as they want to stay anonymous.
As online personas, they avoid posting pictures of themselves and their friends. If they do post, these pictures are scarce and without tags. They also do not comment on other people's pics.
4. They Do Not Have Many Photos
Catfisher’s profile picture can stay the same for many years. Why? Because it is fake. They also do not post many pictures of themselves on social networking sites.
In case they are using someone else's photos as theirs, they often have few of them. Posting them at once would leave them without profile updates and expose them faster than they would like.
5. They Post Only Professional or General Pictures
Everyone loves pictures of a sunset, beautiful scenery, or a cute pet. It's fun to share a picture of something you find interesting on social media profiles.
Unfortunately, people that only post these types of pictures are likely to be catfishers. If you come across someone who only has professional photos, chances are, they're hiding something.
6. They Make Mistakes In Their Stories
It is easy to poke holes in catfisher's stories as there are inconsistencies.
The person catfishing has to tell a lot of lies to keep the hoax going. Because of that, they can have problems recalling details they shared with you.
Keeping in character can also be difficult because they may not know what the person they are pretending to be would do in that situation.
Another reason why a scammer's story will not add up is the lack of genuine information they can share. They will try to avoid answering questions by heading in another direction or using vague answers.
If your online friend isn't willing to reveal much about themselves, it could indicate they are not a real person.
8. They Openly Ask You For Money
After striking a chord, a trickster will try to take financial advantage of you by requesting money from you.
Usually, a scammer has found himself in an emergency situation that must be taken care of. And even though he is apologetic, he will send you a message asking for your help to pay for it.
9. They Are Too Good To Be True
The person catfishing tends to present himself as the man/woman of your dreams. They listen to the same music, like the same film genre, and even root for the same team!
Remember, they only want you to believe that. Nobody is that perfect.
10. They Are Over The Top
Relationships take time. Someone you've just met online but already professes their eternal love for you and their desire to be your life mate is most likely a catfish.
Catfishing is a form of online deception that uses trickery or artful means to lure someone into an online relationship. It often takes place with the intention of extracting personal or financial gain.
I hope that you now feel equipped enough to recognize a catfisher. Use your new knowledge to keep yourself safe on social networks.