It’s hard to trust people you meet online nowadays. Between online dating, social networks, and online classifieds sites like Craigslist, it’s a pretty safe bet you’ll come across a catfish at some point.
But what does catfish mean? What steps should you take if you suspect you’re being catfished? Every situation calls for a different course of action, but here are a few ways to avoid being duped online.
What Does Catfished Mean and What Does It Look Like?
If you don’t know the meaning of “catfishing,” that’s ok – you’ve come to the right place. Before we go any further, you should probably stop sending money to that Nigerian prince that emailed you.
Catfishing is roughly defined as “luring someone into a relationship by means of a fictional online persona.” It’s a despicable act regardless of the motive but in general, people catfish for one of two reasons: for financial gain or for fun. In most cases, catfishing occurs on online dating sites like Tinder.
What does it look like?
You may think that you’re chatting with a beautiful guy or a girl but in reality, the person you’re talking to is nothing more than a troll portraying a fake persona. Catfishing is when someone wants their victim to think that he/she is somebody else. This person steals someone’s identity, using real photos of somebody else. Now you know what does catfish mean.
Look Out for These Signs of a Catfish
Am I being catfished? Luckily there are some near-universal warning signs that give catfishers away. Check them out below to know that the person on the other side of the screen and the person on the photo are two different people. Warning! You may be a victim if:
- The profile feature an outrageously beautiful picture (a perfect 10 out of 10).
- They refuse to meet you in the real world and constantly mention financial problems or frequent business trips.
- They do their best to make you trust them and eventually ask you to send money, saying that they got into trouble
These are the main signs you should pay attention to when communicating with strangers online. If you notice signs of a catfish plus any other strange behavior, we recommend that you conduct your own research and try to learn more about the person you chat with.
But just how do you do it?
Dig In on Social Media
So now you’re really wondering…“Am I being catfished? The first step to take if you’ve got suspicions is to do some digging on your own. Where to start? Social media, of course! If you know your catfish’s “name,” look them up on Facebook. Do they have a profile? If so, is it a real profile with lots of friends, natural-seeming engagement, and pictures? If you can’t find a Facebook account, look for alternate spellings of the name. You can also search by name on Twitter, Instagram, and MySpace (yes, it still exists) too.
Run a Reverse Google Image Search
Let’s assume you’ve got one or two photos of your online acquaintance. It’s relatively easy to find out if they swiped them from someone else by running a reverse image search. To do this, go to Google Images then click “Search by Image.” Drag the image in question into the search bar and Google will search to find other locations where it exists online. You may find that it was taken from a real (other) person’s social media profile or it could be an image of a B-list celebrity. If you find that the picture’s been attributed to names other than the one you know, start digging from there.
Reverse Phone Number or Username Search
Did you know sites like Spokeo allow you to search a phone number or even a username? They can help you search for relevant data like whose phone number it is and whether or not that username is attached to online accounts on a number of popular websites. People search engines like Spokeo can also give you valuable location info about a person’s last known address, family member, and other details you can use to fact-check your catfish.
Why should you be careful and check every telephone number? Maybe you’ve been chatting with “John Smith” on the phone but his phone number is registered to a “Mark Alvarez.” You can then start searching Mark’s name and contact info to see whether it can lead you to more info on the real owner. If someone called you, use Spokeo’s phone number checker and lookup the information by his/her number. Your search will only take seconds.
Start Checking the Details
Odds are, particularly if you’ve been chatting with the catfish for a while, they’ve given you some details you can look into verifying. Did they tell you the name of the beauty school they attended? Call the school to see if they’ve got records of a student by that name. Did they say they’ve got two brothers, one deceased? Getting any kind of info, use a people lookup search engine or even an ancestry site to find out if what they’re saying about their family tree is true.
Everyone’s fake identity cracks at some point if you look hard enough. Facts are facts no matter what. Signs of a catfish are the same for everyone using a fake account. Check them to know who you’re dealing with. Thanks to innovative search tools, such fake profiles aren’t a difficult quiz anymore.
Even if there’s no factual evidence to prove you’re being lied to, sometimes that nagging feeling in your gut is all you need. Trace your conversations with the accused and see if you’ve told them details about yourself that could be used to scam you, steal from you, or even physically harm you. Did you tell them your address? Your social security number? Your date of birth? If you’ve revealed too much it’s a good idea to change all your passwords, put your credit card companies on notice, and potentially even sign up with a credit monitoring service.
If you’re not being catfished by a troll, then you’re probably being catfished by a money-hungry scammer who tells you love stories for you to trust him. Now’s the time for lockdown mode and for using a reliable info finder.
Meeting new people online is a wonder of the modern era. You can make friends, find love, or even track down a long-lost family member through the power of the web! It’s hard not to love all the opportunities the Internet presents, but you’ve got to stay vigilant about your personal information and treat any online acquaintance the way you’d treat someone you met in a bar or at the park. Strangers are strangers until you meet in person no matter how legitimate they may seem.