If you’ve been a part of the internet dating scene at all in recent years you’ve probably come across a “catfish” at some point, whether you were aware of it at the time or not.
Those who are new to the digital dating game may be wondering what catfishing means. A catfish is someone who uses stolen pictures and info to create an attractive online persona that does not represent their true identity. They use this fictitious profile to engage in one-on-one interactions with others online in hopes of gaining their trust.
As the popularity of online dating continues to grow, so too has the number of sophisticated catfish scammers. Celebrities like Iggy Azalea and Kate Gosselin have fallen for their deception, which just goes to show that anyone can be a victim.
Creating a convincing fake new online identity and nurture online “relationships” takes a great deal of time and effort — so why do people catfish, how do they do it, and how do we stop it?
Why People Catfish: Not Just for Financial Gain
Why would anybody want to catfish a person they meet online? The reality is that not all of them engage in deception for the same reason. While the majority of catfish are in it for pure financial gain, others do it for more personal reasons – usually as a coping mechanism to deal with unhappiness in their own lives. Here are some of the more common reasons why people catfish:
Catfishing as Revenge
There are many reasons why people decide to catfish others. One particularly upsetting reason appears to be revenge. Spurned lovers, those suffering unrequited love, ex-friends or frenemies, and even neighbors with too much time on their hands have been reported as catfish. Faking an online identity is practiced all over the Internet including social media, any dating site, and online marketplaces like Craigslist and LetGo.
When exacting revenge, a cruel catfisher can use the information they already know about their victim and parlay this into playing on their affections. The victim may be surprised that an online stranger can have the same taste in music, quote all their favorite movies, and deftly carry on fascinating conversations. This can bolster a sense that the relationship (whatever form it may take) is important or “meant to be,” making it all the more painful for them to realize it was all a carefully-constructed facade.
Catfishing as an Alternate Reality
The act of catfishing allows someone to digitally live the life of their dreams, and garner the attention that comes with it. It’s as if they become the protagonist in their own beautiful narrative where they can then play any role they choose. As such, catfish often paint themselves into compelling stories ranging from quiet success to enviable glamour, to heart-wrenching tragedy. All options engender the catfish to their audience. The romanticized stories of their lives can attract victims longing to be a part of a fascinating, if the mysterious, story of their own.
Catfishing as Passive Aggressive Desire
A catfish may go about courtship in a rather cowardly way and decide to pursue it online behind the guise of another identity first. This can either happen because the catfish is too shy to directly pursue their object of interest in the first place, or because they’ve found themselves in an unrequited love affair. Catfish can believe that if someone has expressed a lack of interest in dating, that if that person really knew them, that opinion would change. So they embark on the involved process of becoming the person they feel would win their victim’s affections behind the safety of a smoke screen.
Signs of Catfishing
Now that you know why people catfish and what catfishing is, how do you detect it? Here are some of the red flags to be aware of when it comes to catfishing. Never be afraid to protect yourself! Here is how to tell that someone might be catfishing you:
- Unusually hard, if not impossible, to get on the phone
- If they do accept or make calls, there is often an unusual, notable lack of background noise (because their friends and family IRL won’t understand why they’re carrying on a secret identity)
- Will not share exact address details
- Might not want to go to Skype or Google Chat with you
- Never show up to meet in person
The MTV show Catfish that helped put catfishing on everyone’s radars has actually thanked Spokeo for helping them catch so many catfish since it allows them to find people’s real identities using a phone number or basic contact info. If you think you’re being catfished, try entering the person’s information into Spokeo to see if they are who you think they are.
While there are many different reasons why people catfish others, the tactics remain the same. If you recognize any of the warning signs mentioned above, it’s probably best to just stop communicating with the person. After all, there are plenty of (non-cat)fish in the sea.