Learn More About Catfishing

You might have heard the term “catfishing” through the incredibly popular MTV show, or just from other people discussing how it happens online. But what does it really mean?

An Online Persona

Essentially, catfishing describes when an individual creates a fake online persona to try and convince someone to start dating online. This might be incredibly detailed, with some people using Photoshop to essentially create a brand new person, or it could be very simple, with others just choosing to take an image from the internet and add it to a dating profile.

Pair the image with a fake name and a quick backstory, and suddenly that catfish is a brand new person. With this online persona, an individual can feel free to manipulate someone else who’s genuinely seeking a partner online. It can affect people of any gender, age, income level and any other demographic, because an individual’s motivations for catfishing can be incredibly varied.

For Love, Fun, or Money

Many people think of catfishing as exclusively happening when an individual manipulates someone else for money. Although these types of romance scams definitely make up a sizable number of catfish, and it’s a very effective scam, that’s not the only reason someone would create a catfishing profile. (In reality, catfish do what they do for a number of different reasons. If one has duped you, there just might not be an answer for you.)

Some catfish are just in it for the chase. Some utilize that unique position to shake you down, get all your financial or personal information, and vanish. Some do just take your money and leave, sometimes draining you of all your savings. And some just think it’s fun to get online and manipulate people. Sadly, it’s hard to get any more information beyond that.

Carefully Calculated for Maximum Pity

One of the most interesting pieces of catfishing is that the catfish can feel free to make up literally anything regarding the person’s backstory, age, home life, country of origin, residence and anything the catfish chooses to divulge. Because people use catfishing profiles to manipulate people, these are highly-calculated profiles, developed as carefully as a character in a book.

This calculation means that it’s both very difficult and very easy to uncover most fake profiles. It’s intentionally difficult for the victim to discover, which can make finally realizing the truth that much more devastating. But if you’re able to catch someone in a lie earlier, you can save yourself from that kind of pain. And save your money, too.

What Are Some Telltale Signs of Catfishing?

So how do you know that someone is catfishing you? You can’t find a list of signs that encompass all catfish. But with just these three pieces of information, you’re much more likely to catch the catfish.

A Quick Emotional Attachment

A catfish wants to manipulate you with the least amount of set-up time required. That means the catfish needs you to form an emotional attachment as quickly as possible, and one of the best ways to do it is to have the catfishing character form an attachment to you right out of the gate.

Some people are hyper-empathetic, have attachment issues, or just click really well. If you become friends quickly or the other person seems a little eager, you don’t have to immediately jump to conclusions. But take this factor into account when you’re trying to discern whether your potential online romance is actually a catfish.

Never Available for Video Chat

A catfish will essentially never use his or her real face to manipulate the victim; some people actually consider it a different type of dating scam if an individual uses real personal pictures. Whether it’s a carefully crafted individual image, a famous model or a picture pulled off the search results for “good-looking person,” the catfish physically can’t show that face in a video.

That’s why catfish will come up with all sorts of interesting ways to avoid a video chat. Some might even set up a time to video chat to keep you from getting too suspicious, then cancel at the last minute due to “unforeseen circumstances.” Sure, someone could technically just not own a webcam and have very bad luck. But do you really want to take the chance?

Suddenly Asking for Emergency Money

This is a classic for catfish. The emergency part is especially essential because it puts as much pressure on you as possible. Remember that catfish prey on people’s base instincts of love and pity. An emergency problem does just that. The catfish almost always uses the same talking points: you’re the only one that can help, the catfish has exhausted all other resources, and if you don’t send money the person could die or otherwise stay cut off forever.

Obviously, you should be incredibly wary of sending money online to anyone that you don’t know very well. But if the person also utilizes hysterics and severe pressure, it’s even more shady. These emergency money requests can run into the thousands and won’t stop until you catch on.

How Can I Catch a Catfish?

This all looks very scary. And it’s true that catfish strategically target people to bring those people’s defenses down. But catfish are usually looking for an easy target. If you know what to do, you can significantly reduce your chance of getting catfished.

Stay Alert for Warning Signs

You can escape from almost all catfishing attempts as long as you pay attention to the warning signs. As soon as someone asks for money out of the blue, cut the person out. If you’ve asked to move a little slower in the relationship and the other person keeps pursuing you, stop the relationship. If you’ve even offered to buy a webcam but the other person has rejected the offer, it’s probably a good time to leave.

Not every single person that shows these behaviors is a catfish, but they probably won’t be a very good match, because they’re all pretty unhealthy behaviors. You also don’t have to be completely paranoid — just because someone talks about money issues doesn’t mean the person’s setting you up for a scam. Just maintain a healthy eye for fraud.

Run All Your Online Dates Through a People Search Engine

The best way to make sure that you’re talking to a real person is to use a people search engine like PeopleFinders to try and fact-check the information that the person is directly giving you. Catfish almost exclusively create “characters” with which to manipulate people; even those doing it just because of body image or confidence issues rarely provide true information.

That means that a simple people search can often destroy a catfish’s story. Even if the catfish is stealing information from a real person, it’s nearly impossible to keep all of those details straight. With the massive amounts of public records that you have access to, you can check every single piece to get the facts you need.

Safeguard Yourself With PeopleFinders

Online dating usually isn’t very dangerous, and it doesn’t carry a lot of the same risks that traditional dating does. But catfish almost exclusively function online — it’s much easier to keep up the facade when the person can’t see you, and you can take your time responding to messages. That’s why PeopleFinders can be so helpful--and fast--when it comes to finding catfish.

Of course, PeopleFinders can help you in other areas of the online dating world, too. With criminal records searches and address lookups, you’ll soon approach online dating from an entirely new place: one where you’re truly in control of your own love life.

What Is Catfishing?