Are you being catfished? What is catfishing and how should you deal with it?

What is catfishing? It’s easy to spot if you look for the signs!

Are you having doubts that the person you’ve been flirting with on a dating site might not be who they say they are? Is their behaviour becoming bizarre? Well, it’s time you learnt more about catfishing – a rare, but real phenomenon arising from social media.

Although online dating successfully brings people together and has introduced a new way of meeting people, it has also made it more difficult to know with certainty who you are talking to.

So what is a catfish exactly? Someone who steals someone else’s personal information, such as their photos, videos and job status to create a fictional online persona, often on a dating site. The term originates from a 2010 documentary called Catfish, which brought the concept to public attention.

Similar to ‘phishing’ (trying to obtain sensitive information through deceptive e-mails and websites), catfishing usually targets lonely people who are interested in meeting ‘the one’ on a dating site, to ultimately extract money or personal data from them.

A catfish can also be a lonely individual themselves, who wants to explore things that they are missing out on in real life, so they hide behind a fake identity online.

Unsuspecting victims of catfishing are often left feeling betrayed, embarrassed or deeply hurt after realising they’ve been investing in something fake. In more extreme cases, victims have lost huge amounts of money to people they thought they could trust.

There are many stories from people who have been catfished one way or another while using a dating site, but no matter the case, the phenomenon is serious and you need to know how to identify a catfish and protect yourself.

So we’ve made a list of signs that can help you understand if you’re being catfished and what to do about it:

1. A catfish doesn’t have many pictures or their pictures are ‘too good to be true’

For example, if every picture of them seems perfectly modeled and staged or if their interests are so general that anyone could match them, then you should start getting suspicious

2. The relationship progresses or becomes romantic too quickly

Think about it: someone you’ve never even met claims they can’t live without you or that you’re the love of their life. Is this normal for a new relationship?

3. They write in bad grammar or with spelling mistakes, even though they claim to be from your country

This is another good indication that someone might be catfishing you. If it’s evident that the person you’re talking to has very little command of the language they claim is their native tongue, then you should ask more questions. Hopefully, they’ll understand you’re on to them and leave you alone.

4. They don’t want to show their face on camera or avoid/postpone meetings forever

Catfishes are great at coming up with believable excuses. They might tell you they’re busy all the time, or that they never have private time to go on a video call with you. They might suggest face-to-face meetings to trick you into thinking they’re keen but will always end up with some excuse or circumstance popping up. If that’s the case, save yourself some precious time and cut all ties with them. Even if they’re not a true catfish, you deserve someone who values your time and wants to get to know you on a face-to-face basis.

5. Their social media activity is very sparse, they have few online friends and are not tagged in any photos

Do you need any more red flags? Even the most passionate social media hater is likely to have a Facebook page with birthday messages on their wall. If their social media activity gives you ‘that’ feeling that something’s wrong, then go with your gut and ask some questions!

6. They claim to travel a lot or don’t have a permanent address

This is another way to avoid meeting you in person, or having video calls with you (time difference, being always on the move, strict business trips are only some of the excuses you might encounter). So, keep your eyes peeled for these kinds of warning signs!

7. They spin complex, detailed tales, usually about personal struggles, and they share them too soon to gain your sympathy or pity

This one’s pretty self-explanatory. In simple words, catfishers are great storytellers and they will have amazing stories prepared to make you sympathise with them or make you feel special and different. They will also have a perfect plan on how to deliver those stories to you. So, if someone you’ve never met talks to you about their deep childhood emotional traumas or shares their deepest secrets because ‘you’re the only one they can trust’, be careful!

8. They ask for money (usually as a form of help relating to their elaborate stories)

It goes without saying that you should never send money to people you have no history with or have never met! And of course you should never share your bank account information! So, if someone you’ve never met asks you for something as simple as train tickets to visit you, it should be enough for you to become suspicious. Be careful and don’t be fooled by their attempt to romance you or make you feel special with their constant texting.

Online dating is incredibly rewarding but, like with anything on the Internet, it’s important to be on the lookout for anything that doesn’t feel right. So if you or someone you know are associating with a potential catfish, take action and cut all connections with them.