How to Protect Yourself From Catfishing in Online Dating

Online (dating) is a phenomenon that exploded in popularity in the mid-1990s. Its popularity was, in part, due to one's ability to meet people from anywhere in the country or even around the world. A whole new level of socializing and meeting prospective mates had opened, allowing people to do so without ever leaving their homes. Along with the rise of Internet matchmaking, however, came the problem of lying and online dishonesty. One form of (dating) dishonesty is referred to as "catfishing." The risks of being a victim of catfishing range from annoyance at being tricked into a relationship, to other more serious problems. These include humiliation, cyberbullying and other emotional trauma, plus financial fraud and identity theft.

What Is Catfishing

The term 'catfishing' comes from the 2010 movie "Catfish". The movie was about a man who was tricked into a relationship with someone who wasn't who they appeared to be. In the movie there is talk of how catfish get put into tanks full of cod to keep the cod active and healthy, and how the scammer and antagonist in the story might be an example of someone who keeps victims on their toes. From this, the term 'catfishing' was born, to describe relationship scammers. Essentially, catfishing is an act in which someone posts fake photos and presents a false identity to win another person's affections. Catfishing also refers to people who present false personalities and alter egos online, for the same purposes.

Why Do People Catfish?

There are a variety of motivations for catfishing. Some people do it out of boredom and a desire to add some excitement to their lives. Others do it out of a desire for revenge or to engage in cyberbullying, while some have financial incentives, and are out to commit fraud. Catfishers come from many different walks of life. Criminals, bored spouses, shy men, and even young women seeking companionship, have been caught engaging in catfishing. Catfishing can even be a tool for corporate espionage. One catfisher actually caught a relative who was hatching a murder plot.

How To Tell If You're Being Catfished

Catfishers use a variety of tricks to ensnare their victims, but there are some telltale signs of catfishing that everyone should look out for. If they don't present pictures of themselves, or their pictures on their profiles aren't tagged (such as on Facebook), they might be catfishers. Avoiding contact via webcam or only being capable of chatting via text is another potential sign of catfishing. They often also have very exciting lives that they cannot verify or validate. If the individual in question starts asking for money, instead of turning to their family for help, that is a very strong sign of a catfisher that is running an actual scam. If they say they are a model and use a profile picture that looks like a model, they are probably a catfisher.

How To Protect Yourself From Catfishers

The first rule of defending oneself from a catfisher is to keep in mind that if a person looks or sounds too good to be true, they probably are. If they send pictures of themselves, investigate it using Facebook, or even Google's reverse image search. All instances of catfishing involve some form of impersonation. Also never give away financial information to anyone online, no matter how dire their situation might seem to be.

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