10 ways to catch out a catfish
Of all the scams associated with online dating, catfishing might be the most malicious. Keep yourself safe with our 10 easy steps to catch out a catfish
Urbandictionary.com defines a catfish as: someone who pretends to be someone they’re not using Facebook or other social media to create false identities, particularly to pursue deceptive online romances.
In many cases catfishing takes of form of financial scamming, where covert predators disguise themselves as attractive singles online. They often use false photographs stolen from other peoples’ social media sites and they present too-good-to-be-true stories about their lives and achievements. At a glance, they seem like great dates.
It’s important to the note that catfish prey on all types. Anyone can fall victim to an internet scam, not just the naive or socially inexperienced. Falling for a catfish has nothing to do with intelligence or rational thinking – it’s all about hope. When seeking love online, we put ourselves out there and subsequently make ourselves vulnerable. Sometimes, our desire to find the ideal partner outweighs rational thinking. Our right brain (emotional) tends to dominate our left brain (rational) and the inner voice that says “I want love” becomes louder than the voice that says “be careful”.
You can empower yourself by listening to your rational voice and soon you’ll soon be separating the princes from the frogs like a pro. Here are some tips for spotting a catfish:
1. Too good to be true – photos
Do they look like a model? Do they seem too perfect to be a normal person? Try to authenticate their photos using reverse image search – if you find the same images on lots of different sites linked to different names or if the images turn up on a stock photo site or modelling site, you might want to think twice.
2. Too good to be true – life
If they claim to be a brain surgeon and part time pilot, who enjoys running monthly marathons and volunteering to save the children in Africa, your alarm bells might start ringing.
3. No photos or webcam
Be alert to any profiles that offer no photos. Early in your interaction, ask them to send you a photo and if they refuse, you might become suspicious. Having a web chat is a great way to explore the level of chemistry between you. If they claim to have no access to a webcam (unusual these days), your intuition might tell you something.
4. Saying exactly what you want to hear
Many victims report that the person said all the right things, they tapped into their deepest needs and said only positive things. Real people are rarely so perfect and catfishes often work to prepared scripts, so be highly wary of relentless flattery.
5. Too serious, too soon
Real intimacy takes time to build and is based on trust. If they move too quickly into the realm of love and commitment, try not to be flattered. This may be a sign that they are not legitimate.
6. Asking for money
This should be a massive red flag but unfortunately, many people still fall for it. If they ask you for cash, this is an indicator that their intentions are based on something other than finding love – run away!
7. Very low Facebook friend count
Check out their social media profiles as soon as you can. Often, when a catfish sets up their false dating profile they set up corresponding Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts to demonstrate ‘social proof’ they exist. If their other profiles appeared online around the same time as their dating profile, this could be an indicator of deception. If their Facebook profile has fewer than 100 friends or no people are tagged in their photos, this should also be cause for suspicion.
8. Traumatic life events
Many catfish create elaborate stories to play on your sympathy, especially when building up to ask for money. Be wary of anyone who talks about major illnesses, traumas or unusual life events in an attempt to make you feel sorry for them.
9. Excuses, excuses, excuses
A key indicator of a catfish is that they will not want to meet you in person (or via webcam). Be aware of anyone who constantly makes excuses as to why they can’t meet. A good guide is to aim to meet in person within one month of connecting online.
10. Trust your gut
Most victims of catfish report that, with the benefit of hindsight there were many signs, lots of times when their gut said no but their heart disagreed. This is one situation where it is important to listen to your intuition. Your unconscious mind gives you hints when it suspects someone is not the real deal, so listen to it.
So start to balance your approach to online dating. Of course, it’s important to have fun, relax, be yourself and enjoy the process, but try to maintain a healthy level of skepticism too.
Cast a more objective eye over your own profile and maybe get a friend’s opinion. Do you communicate a level of vulnerability or desperation? Online predators are known to target people they perceive as easy marks, so make sure you protect yourself.
To stay safe, maintain your communication on the eharmony site for as long as possible. Many catfish attempt to coax you away to instant messaging or private email, thus reducing your level of control. Check out our tips for dating safety here.
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