Catfishers use someone else’s identity to create often emotional connections online while remaining incognito. They prey on the fact that most of us tend to trust detailed online profiles and that we’re often too polite to call out our suspicions to someone we’ve just met.
Scammers often draw on a full arsenal of catfishing apps, fake text apps and fake social media templates to lure victims in. Protect yourself by familiarizing yourself with seven common tools of their trade.
1. The Usual Suspects
Unfortunately, many catfishers achieve considerable success with the same apps we use every day, such as TikTok, Twitter and Tinder. But with more than 2 billion users globally, Facebook is the easiest way for a catfisher to create a bogus online identity, network and backstory. At best, the purpose is to have some twisted fun, but fake profiles can also be used for blackmail or entrapment by exposing members of a private community to the wider world.
Using everyday apps for catfishing is all too common in online dating. A catfisher might be “roaching” by dating several people simultaneously, or simply cheating on their partner using apps such as Viber, Signal and Telegram which offer a self-destruct feature that hides message logs.
Top tip: Watch out for hidden apps for dating sites for someone you already know, and do a reverse phone number search for anyone who’s dating profile seems suspicious.
2. Fake Call
If your date suddenly has to take a call from the president or seems to have a host of celebrities on speed dial, they might be using Fake Call. This app lets you pick a character to “call” you at a set time, either boosting your credentials in front of witnesses or confirming aspects of your backstory you’ve already shared. Either way, it’s a prerecorded service that is no more genuine than a $1.50 bill.
Although we don’t want to label everyone who uses Photolift a catfisher, it’s certainly a useful catfishing app for those who want to deceive. Photolift lets you edit your profile picture easily to change your shape, size or skin tone. Yes, it might be about insecurity, but it could also be an attempt to foil reverse photo search software and escape exposure.
4. Fake Message Free 2021
Similar to Fake Call, this is a fake text app that delivers an SMS or MMS at a desired time, usually as a prank but potentially to give a pretext to leave. Show a screenshot and it looks like a normal text message, but in the hands of a catfisher it can be used as supporting evidence for an elaborate lie.
5. Spoof Location apps
Whether your catfisher is impressing you with their posts from Las Vegas or Dubai or reassuring you that they’re in your neighborhood and not half way across the world, a number of apps, such as Fake GPS location or Fake GPS let you post a mock location. Worryingly, it also tricks other apps on the phone, so it isn’t always easy to expose.
Top Tip: Your online friend just checked in from a business conference in Paris? Get them to give you a video call with the city in the background.
Allowing you to create fake Instagram conversations, profiles and posts with ease — as well as add bogus comments and likes — Funsta is another app that was intended to be used for pranks only. For catfishers, however, the temptation might be too strong to embellish their profile using a ready-made fake social media template. The solution? Treat what you see online with a pinch of salt and let the truth reveal itself in person.
7. Prank Me Not
Want to create a fake Facebook or Twitter status or chat thread? It’s easy with Prank Me Not, an online fake template generator that allows you to fool your friends — or worse — by creating an illusory online post or update that you then download as a screenshot and share. Again, it’s intended as a tool for some creative fun, and it’s unlikely to mislead a victim for long. If in doubt, cross-reference the post screenshot with the live Facebook or Twitter account to spot any disparities.
The good news is that once you’re suspicious that someone is catfishing you, there’s nowhere for them to hide. Using tools like Spokeo’s reverse phone lookup or username search, you can search to verify whether or not public record data supports a suspected catfish’s claims about their identity, age, location — even marital status.
- The Guardian – How to catch a catfisher | Technology
- APO – Swiping, Stealthing & Catfishing