What is Catfishing and How Do You Spot It?
By Johan Curtis 6 minutes
Every day we come across a new term or a new slang for a certain act or offense. On today’s list, we have catfishing.
Have you ever made a friend, whose presence was entirely online, you don’t really know much about them nor have you ever met them? A more relevant example is online dating; you know when you match with someone who is too good to be true, and upon further exploration, the ID turns out to be fake or not who they say they are?
Yes, that’s a classic catfish case.
Why is it called Catfishing?
The name was derived from the documentary “Catfish,” which came out in 2010. In which Angela, the character, ends up making a fake profile to impress Nev, another character.
She uses photos of a younger model to talk to Nev and rebuild her passion for painting, which Nev would encourage.
More importantly, Angela’s husband, Vince, mentioned that catfish were kept in tanks that were used to transport smaller fish in order to keep them alert and stop them from dying.
He says that in a very similar way, we should look out for who we are talking to online, or else we might find ourselves in trouble.
What is Catfishing?
Despite your countless efforts, one can ever be sure of who is sitting behind a screen. Catfishing is known as when someone creates a fake profile online to pretend to be someone else; sometimes catfishing can be completely harmless, in a sense, that it will cause you no “literal” harm. However, in some cases, it is also done to hurt you purposefully or to take advantage of you.
Fake accounts can easily be set up to look very real by using several fake photos, fake information, etc.
The Purpose of Catfishing
Usually, 99% of the time, catfishing is done to scam the victim or to somehow extract money from them.
Most of the time a traditional catfish attempts involve a fake profile reaching out to the victim with the intention of friendship or a relationship because how well they’ve built up their entire profile, they quickly gain the victim’s trust and either start asking for personal information or favors.
Now, such favors may include that they’re going through a really tough time and need a few dollars loan, or if you could transfer a particular amount in their accounts.
Similarly, other attempts maybe a little more extreme such as a catfish account could also be made for the sole purpose to stalk you. It is very easy to gain the other person’s trust and manipulate them into believing or doing whatever you say.
The outcomes of catfishing can be rather dangerous and should not be taken lightly.
How to Identify a Catfishing Attempt
There are a few very obvious signs of catfishing, which are very fairly simple; we’ve made a list for you.
- They have very limited photos uploaded on their social media, all of them being recent
- Not a lot of social media presence
- They look too good to be true
- Their following or number of friends are very low
- They may seem extremely interested in you in very little time
- Make grammatical errors and have language barriers
- Always seem to reject the idea of meeting or video calling
- Always have a sob story ready to gain sympathy
- Asks for money repeatedly by presenting a new sad reason every time
- They never seem to provide a permanent address
The Risks of Catfishing
In most catfishing can become seriously dangerous, and is a huge cause for concern. There are many risks of catfishing, some of which are:
Potential Monetary Loss: Most fake profiles will solicit money from you and asks for loans etc. by providing a depressing story about themselves.
Online Embarrassment: Some people end up catfishing you only to bully or belittle you. In such an attempt, they may end up bullying you in public by exposing whatever conversations they had with you or posting your private conversations online, making it an extremely embarrassing scenario for you.
Create Trust Issues: Once a person has become a victim of a catfishing case, it is most likely that it becomes rather difficult for them to trust anyone again that easily which may bring several hindrances in their lives.
The threat of being Stalked: The most dangerous risk of catfishing is the potential threat of the actual user behind the fake profile stalking you. Your catfish could easily manipulate you into telling them all of your personal information and confidential data then use it against you in an attempt to spy on you. Such people may try to install spyware onto your device so they can monitor all your actions throughout the day and easily gain access to your credentials and other confidential data.
Emotionally Scarring: Catfishing is most likely to leave a person scarred since the victim invests so much time and effort into the particular relationship and the other person does not reciprocate at all and is only using the victim for his/her gain.
How to Avoid Catfishing
There are a few simple ways you can prevent or avoid a catfishing attempt, here’s how:
- You should never just share personal information with anyone, always ask around and look for mutual friends
- Do thorough research before getting into any sort of relationship
- Do not loan money to people you meet online
- Always stay vigilant and alert for suspicious behavior, even if something seems mildly suspicious it is most likely a red flag
- Install good anti-spyware software to prevent an attempt of spying
- Make sure to always video call the online friend before setting up a meeting
- Make sure first to know their necessary information or observe how easily they disclose their personal information to judge their character
- Always try to find mutuals between the two of you so that you can ask for a second opinion on the person
Catfishing nowadays has become a serious issue, with rising low self-esteem cases and several online thefts. It is the next best option for fraudsters and hackers.
Even though in some cases, it may not cause you any serious harm, it is still risky and important for you to take the right preventive measures to avoid such an attempt.