What Is Catfishing And How To Confront A Catfish?
A lot of people pretend to be someone else from time to time, but some of them make that their hobby or worse, their profession. In this article, we will discuss the problem of an online romance scam, and in particular catfishing scams. Here you will find the catfish definition, interesting and useful facts on this social phenomenon, statistics, and the information on how to avoid being catfished.
What is catfishing?
Let’s start with the catfish definition. Urban dictionary defines catfishing as “the phenomenon of internet predators that fabricate online identities and entire social circles to trick people into emotional or romantic relationships.” Where did the term catfish come from? In fact, this is a relatively new term (as well as the phenomenon itself) — people started to use it in this sense after the movie “Catfish” released in 2010.
So, catfishing someone is building a relationship with someone online pretending to be another person. In most cases, catfish use photos of an attractive person and use them, as well as the appealing but imaginary personality to make a victim fall in love.
In the context of the dating industry, however, this work has a slightly different meaning. The thing is on sugar daddy websites, as well as on the ordinary dating sites, catfishing someone is not “just for fun.” It usually leads to financial losses. People create fake accounts, upload fake photos and start to “work” with their target audience considering their reasons of joining this website: love, sex, no strings attached, sugar daddy relationships. Of course, they try to give victims exactly what they were looking for.
How does catfish work?
To spot a liar, think like a liar. Let’s pretend that you’re going to become a catfish yourself. So, how to catfish? What’s the most effective algorithm?
Here is a classic step-by-step strategy used to fabricate online identities and trick someone into fake relationships:
- Choosing the “target audience.” A catfish whether male or female chooses men or women as their potential victims.
- Finding a suitable dating website. It’s important to understand what “suitable” in this context means. For a catfish, this is a website without verification, a platform where a fake profile can be created easily.
- Stealing someone’s photos. Scammers usually steal pics of someone hot on Instagram, Facebook, or another social network.
- Create a new identity. A scammer needs an appealing personality, for example, a kind fireman or a volunteer who is looking for love and old-school romance in the cruel world.
- Make contacts. A catfish looks for people looking for new relationships and initiates a conversation.
- Gain the trust, build an online relationship, ask for help, get the money if this is your main goal.
Catfish profiles may look real, but they are all created according to this scheme.
Why do people catfish?
Now you know how people catfish. But why do they do it? Generally speaking, there are two types of reasons: the psychological and financial ones.
The phenomenon of catfishing is more than just interesting. Just think about it: an Australian singer, Casey Donovan, has being catfished for 6 years by her best friend who was pretending to be Matthew. Not all stories are as shocking as this one, but it is no secret that catfishes have some common traits that make them choose this path. Here they are:
- Low self-esteem
- Desire to be popular
- Dissatisfaction with appearance, dreaming of being someone else
- Despair, failure to build a relationship with real pics
- Desire to change gender role
- Unsatisfied sexual fantasies and desires
- Wish to escape the reality
- Inability to stop lying
These are the results of quite interesting research, and though we can’t claim that all of the catfish do what they do because of one or a few reasons above (there are also financial reasons), this information allows us to profile a typical catfish.
What can be worse than a broken heart? In the sugar dating and romance dating industry, it’s a broken heart and empty wallet. Please note that catfishing for money is more common than it seems. Let us take a look at the scheme usually used by those who are looking for money and nothing but money in more detail.
Who are money-hungry catfishes? In most cases, they are frauds living abroad, often in third world countries. Some of them work alone, and some get paid and work as regular employees.
How do they get their money? Their main goal is to gain your trust and make you feel affection, strong feelings, or at least a strong sexual desire for them in the shortest possible time. Then, one of the following scenarios is played:
- A catfish asks for money to come to your country and finally see you.
- Emergency happens, a catfish or one of the family members is hospitalized.
- Online boyfriend/girlfriend needs money to start a business, earn money, and again, finally see you in person.
In general, there are 3 golden rules to spot a money-hungry catfish and avoid money loss from Interpol, and they are very simple:
- Be vigilant if a stranger contacts you, especially if it leads to a request for money;
- Never send money impulsively (or better not send them at all);
- Don’t share your personal info with anyone to prevent a fraudster from blackmailing you.
The main difference between catfishes who are doing what they do “for fun” and those who do this for money is that you should not expect the latter to feel such emotions as shame, desire to confess, empathy and compassion. This is just a job for them, so keep this in mind — if you are skeptical in a good way, it will be really hard to trick you.
Is catfishing legal?
Yes and no. Generally speaking, catfishing itself, i.e. pretending to be someone else is legal. It is like role play — it is not prohibited by law. But the truth is almost any catfish person commits a crime. How is that possible? Here is the list of illegal actions usually taken by such kinds of fraudsters.
- Stealing someone’s intellectual property. As we noted above, a fraudster needs to steal someone’s photos. Though it is pretty hard to find and suit them, it is possible.
- Getting a victim’s money, property or another type of benefit. Simply put, if a catfish initiates a conversation without making attempts to get your money, it is not a crime. But if they are trying to obtain some benefit, you can sue them.
- Blackmailing. This is another “branch” of the online romance scams industry. Getting a user’s private information, photos or videos allows frauds (especially those who use low-quality romance and sugar daddy websites) to make a victim pay under the threat of revealing this information.
As you can see, though it may be quite difficult to get justice when it comes to romance scams, people who are trying to catfish someone usually can be sued for one of the three types of crimes.
Unfortunately, the number of such crimes is constantly growing. For example, according to the FBI 2019 Crime Report, there were 19,473 of victims of confidence fraud or romance fraud, and this is 1,000 more than in the preceding year — in 2018, there were 18,493 of victims of online romance scams.
As you can see, the situation in the US is pretty complex. The demand for dating services (in particular, sugar daddy dating services and international dating services) is growing, and the number of romance scams is not decreasing.
It should be emphasized that the chance of being catfished in some states is bigger than in the other states. Let us take a look at the most “dangerous” and the “safest” places in the country.
You are more like to be catfished in:
You are less likely to be catfished in:
- South Dakota
Unfortunately, the amounts of money lost by victims are also growing. For example, in 2018, Americans lost $362,500,761 compared to $475,014,032 in 2019. That allows us to calculate the average amount lost, and it is about $24,393 per person. According to statistics, the average age of victims is 50-60 years.
How to find out if someone is a catfish?
Yes, catfishing might be a problem, but you can protect yourself if you know how to spot a catfish. Here are the most common signs of a catfish to remember:
- Private profiles. On social networks, catfishes usually have private profiles — it allows hiding photos from real owners.
- Stolen pictures of people. And again, they steal pics of beautiful users of social networks, models, etc., and use them to attract singles.
- Few friends, few contacts, few posts, no tags. Real people often overshare information on social media, and catfishes usually don’t have many followers, posts, pics, videos, etc.
- The person is incredibly friendly and reachable. Victims of catfishes note that they were surprised that “such a person is this reachable and always available.”
- Romantic relationship is moving too quickly. If words of love are said too soon, this is definitely a bad sign.
- The person doesn’t live a “real” life. We all face difficulties, want to share impressions, сomplain about problems to old and new friends, and this never happens with catfishes — they “live” perfect lives of perfect people who dream only about “true love.”
- Always have excuses when you ask for a Skype session. Catfish never show their faces for obvious reasons.
- Bad grammar. As we have noted above, most catfishes live in developing countries and often have poor grammar skills.
- Asking for money/gifts. Asking for financial help is the most common sign that allows distinguishing a catfish from a real person you met on the web.
Tips: how to not get catfished
As you can see, identifying catfish is not rocket science. However, there are also some advanced tips to not get trick about experienced fraudsters.
- Avoid “catfish websites.” These are the romance dating and sugar dating sites without verification and therefore, with tons of fake profiles. Joining a quality site is a guarantee of safety, but this doesn’t work with social networks.
- Use reverse image search. You can use the pics to find out if you are going to start a relationship with a real person or a catfish. Use Google image search or Tin Eye search — these tools allow finding similar pictures posted anywhere on the web.
- Don’t provide your personal information. We’ve already mentioned blackmailing in this article, and you need to keep in mind that it’s serious. Don’t share your private files, contact and financial details if you think you are dealing with a catfish.
- Forget about any kind of charity on dating sites. Even if someone tells you that something teribble has happened, even if a hot girl ask you for money to buy tickets and come to you, don’t send money to anyone you didn’t even meet in person no matter what.
- Ask to make a video call. Phone calls don’t work in such cases. Ask your new acquaintance for video chat, invite to chat on your dating site, ask for their contacts in Skype, WhatsApp, etc., and don’t listen to excuses.
- Trust yourself. If it seems that something goes wrong, listen to yourself. Be careful and don’t ignore your intuition.
Now you know how to avoid being catfished? But what if this has already happened to you?
What should you do if you are getting catfished?
If this has already happened to you, you need to act. But how to deal with being catfished in the right way?
If moral or financial damage was incurred, you need to contact the authorities. Simply put, report to the police. Note that you need to collect all the proofs, including your messages, files, info on your phone calls, etc., anything that could help you prove that this person is guilty. If a catfish is outside the US, victims usually hire international lawyers.
Note that if there was no damage, if this person just uses another identity on social networks, suing him or her will hardly work.
As you can see, there are many things to consider, but protecting yourself from a catfish is not the most complex task ever. In fact, you need to do a few things: join a reputable dating website and don’t think that “it will never happen to you.”
Here, you can find the most trusted, reputable, the safest platforms to join without the risk of being catfished.