While there are certainly many benefits to the rising popularity of online dating, the unfortunate side effect is—as is the case with most things on the Internet—an increase in popularity also comes with an increase in security risks. During the last few years, a major security risk has manifest itself in the form of something known colloquially as a catfish. According to Urbandictionary.com a catfish:
. . . is someone who pretends to be someone they’re not using Facebook or other social media to create false identities, particularly to pursue deceptive online romances.
There are several reasons why individuals might engage in catfishing online, most of those reasons lie somewhere on a creepy-to-dangerous scale, and can include:
- ID theft and fraud
- Revenge ploys
- Passive-aggressive behavior
In all of these cases, a catfish is attempting to use online anonymity to deceive their victims into giving them something, whether that something has a quantifiable value like money or a qualitative value like time and attention.
Be the Shark: Catch the Catfish Before They Can Catch You
Sometimes, a catfish can be easy to spot, much in the same way that certain emails have the obvious appearance of a phishing scam. However, as more users invest their time into pursing their social and romantic interests online, it becomes more worthwhile to protect your social profiles while catfish increase the sophistication of their traps.
To catch a catfish, remember that all of their tactics rely on online anonymity to prevent you from finding out one thing: this person is not who they say they are. Here are five simple techniques that you can use to help identify whether an online interest is exactly who they seem to be.
5 Ways to Identify Catfishing Online
1. Photo Quality
Sure, some of us have a few professional photos left over from a job or special occasion, but how many people do you know that only have expensive glamour shots in their profiles? It seems like even now, in our futuristic world of online dating, the old adage still applies: If it looks too good to be true, it’s probably too good to be true.
If you’re ever unsure about whether someone’s pictures are actually their own you can also try a Google reverse image search. Be cautious if you see a lot of similar images located several places around the web, catfish and other scammers will often use stock photo sets to make their profiles appear legitimate.
2. Photo Quantity
As you get to know a person more, pay attention to the amount of pictures they have on their different profiles. If there aren’t very many and you aren’t seeing any pictures with friends from their social media profiles, beware. While dating sites are more personal, social media profiles are for friendships and it is unusual that a person won’t have any pictures with the people that they spend time with offline.
3. Social Media Profiles
Social media profiles are one of the most powerful tools for catfish because they provide an easy way to build trust and help establish identity. Be aware that many catfish go so far as to have fake social media profiles. Here is a detailed checklist on how you can spot fake friend requests and profiles on Facebook.
At first, your interactions may be limited to messenger services or chatting, but if things are progressing and your quality time is sparse, then this is another sign of potential problems. Activities like trading photos, facetime, and phone conversations are all important ways for you to build up trust—especially if you can’t meet in person.
5. Take Your Time
Most catfish are after something other than a long-term relationship, so they will typically try to escalate your relationship very quickly. Their goal is to get you to do what they want by systematically manipulating your emotions. If you feel like you’re being pressured into something you’re not comfortable with, take a step back and analyze your situation. Building trust online is an especially delicate process and if someone is truly interested in you, they’ll demonstrate a respect for that.
By practicing the five steps above, you can increase your safety and diminish the chances of becoming a victim of catfishing online.
Related Read: Fake Accounts: Protect Yourself From Facebook Cloning
Contribution by Hilary Bird
About the Author
Hilary Bird is a digital journalist who writes about the things that fascinate her the most: relationships, technology, and how they impact each other. As more and more people become more and more reliant on their tech devices, Hilary wants to help them stay safe and understand how these devices will reshape the way we communicate.