MTV’s “Catfish” Uncovers Identities Using Spokeo’s Information Search Tool

Image via Bustle

What is MTV catfish and why has it gained so much popularity? MTV’s series Catfish highlights a fascinating phenomenon. As we live our lives in the age of social media, online dating and Craigslist treasure-hunting, the danger of judging books by their covers – or people by their online identities – becomes more and more real. Catfishing is a bizarre hobby that takes a lot of work, and its effect strikes an uncomfortable note for normal people.

Why would people lie in such an elaborate way — cultivating an entirely different personality — just for amusement? Are catfish sociopaths? Pathological liars? Con-artists? Victims are always shocked to learn they’ve been played after months or even years of regular communication with a catfish. The effect of such calculated deception is so upsetting, the TV show actually sends therapists to meet with all parties after production, according to Vulture. If you’re worried about a living out your own real-world episode with an online relationship of your own, here are a few tips on how MTV catches catfish on the show.

[Spoiler alert: MTV’s Catfish uses Spokeo to research]

How Do MTV’s “Catfish” Investigators Conduct Background Checks?

MTV’s Catfish is a show that fascinates viewers of all ages and backgrounds. What exactly is MTV’s Catfish? The basic premise is to help “victims” find out the truth about the online identities of those that they’ve met on the internet. Before co-hosts Nev and Max get to do any research, Catfish reports that private investigators do background checks, and a psychologist is involved to do some testing. However, when Nev and Max get involved, they begin their research from scratch. MTV has not reported on whether their investigators always uncover enough information to nail down catfish from the start. In fact, it’s somewhat the opposite.

The producers have noted that in the interest of a better actual story on the show, they allow the freedom of not knowing what Max and Nev might uncover to play a role in the story development. In other words, they don’t always know what Max and Nev might find, and that is part of the organic drama that plays out on the show.

Look up anybody by name, e-mail address, phone number, username or even friends in your address book to instantly search for lots of info.

How to Catch a Catfish Online: Nev and Max Do Old-Fashioned Online Research

Some viewers of MTV’s Catfish may find it odd that the victims haven’t done the full work themselves to research their paramours. But as Nev and Max explain, it’s not unusual or concerning to the show’s younger demographic (who’ve spent most of their lives making friends in online environments like Twitter, Facebook, and Snapchat) to automatically trust strangers. As such, it does not always occur to them that someone could be lying about their identity, and they don’t think to research online friends or dates even in simple ways like Google image or photo searches. So Nev and Max start with the basics of online research to help people uncover identities.

Catfish Uses Spokeo

Google doesn’t always uncover everything they need, and Catfish’s co-host Max admits it took the team some time to find another good tool to catch frauds. How to catch a catfish online? They tried a few free and paid tools then realized Spokeo people finder could help them learn someone’s real identity using a phone number, email address, or name. MTV mentions it in a blog about their researching toolset.

“We found a bunch of different telephone lookup sites at first, and a bunch of them were not legit,” Max explains. “It took us a while to find Spokeo.”

In response to a user question during a Reddit AMA, Nev named Spokeo program as the best tool for busting online liars:

Hi, Nev!

Just curious… What’s the single best resource to use to find out whether you’re not getting catfished? I mean, other than the obvious webcams?

Nev’s response:

A reverse phone search – if you have their phone number, you can put it in the website and you might have to pay a small fee, but it’s worth it, considering that it will usually give you who the phone is registered to and sometimes even an address.

With Spokeo in place and a brand new set of fish in the sea, the crew of Catfish is off and running. The show is now heading into its sixth season, and the team is still uncovering surprising online fraud.

Now that you know more about MTV’s Catfish, are you curious about whether you or a friend is getting catfished? Try Spokeo for yourself now.