What Is 'Catfishing'?
“Catfishing’ refers to a scam where someone, the ‘catfish,’ creates a fictitious online identity and seeks out online relationships. These are frequently romantic relationships, and online dating websites and cell phone dating apps are fertile hunting ground for catfish. However, there are also catfish who seek out friendships and other forms of social contact.
Catfishing involves significant deception – it’s not just someone fudging his or her height and weight in a Match.com profile and using a three-year-old photo. A catfish will be far more deceptive. Often, he or she will use someone else’s photos; grab personal details such as work, educational history, and personal histories off of the Internet; and invent an entirely fictitious life for his or her fictitious identity.
The growing popularity of online dating has made catfishing more and more common. Estimates for catfishing victims are in the thousands, and that number is probably under representative. Catfishing victims can be deeply embarrassed and many don’t talk share or talk about it.
What Do ‘Catfish’ Want?
There’s not necessarily a catch to catfishing. A catfish is often just someone pretending to be someone they’re not using the anonymity of the Internet. He or she might may have low self-esteem and build a fictitious online persona to interact with people. Or a catfish might simply find their deception amusing.
More malicious motives can exist as well. Some catfish seek money, and build a fake relationship with their victims to get it. Others seek to prey on their victims’ sympathies and emotions, often relating tragic family events or personal circumstances. Catfish have also been known to seek revenge on a former significant other, prank a friend or acquaintance, or simply seek to amuse themselves at the expense of other people.
‘Catfishing’ in Popular Culture
‘Catfishing’ has been prominently featured in popular culture. The term itself comes from Catfish, a 2010 movie that featured a man meeting a woman online before growing concerned about her true identity. The movie led to a spin-off, Catfish: The TV Show, on MTV.
Probably the most widely known catfishing case involved Manti Te’o, a University of Notre Dame football star. His girlfriend supposedly died of leukemia mid-season, leading to heart-warming tributes and media attention. Only later was it determined that his supposed, online girlfriend never existed. Her entire identity was faked.
How Can I Recognize ‘Catfishing’ Online?
‘Catfishing’ boils down to someone maintaining a fake online profile. You can find tips for recognizing catfish on dating websites and advice columns across the Internet, but here are some common signs:
If you think someone you’re talking to online might not be who they say they are, there are a few things you can do:
CTV News: Canadians lost $17M to online dating scams last year
WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF ONLINE CATFISH?
ONLINE DATING CATFISH
This is one of the newest and most recently publicized catfishing scams although, they’ve been going on a lot longer than people know about. Typically, the catfish reaches out to a person through a forum or social network (like Facebook or a dating site like pof.com, OKCupid, etc.) and engages conversation with them. The catfish will create fake profiles and oftentimes elaborate stories to keep the charade going. There are different things that motivate each of these people. It’s most commonly a need to be liked, hide who they really are because of confidence issue and sometimes it’s because of greed because they want your money but, in all cases, the catfish is lying about who they are.
NIGERIAN PRINCE SCAM
This is one of the oldest and most known catfishing profiles that originally started with mail then, fax and then email. The story has evolved over time from needing money to get the prince out of jail and then personal information in order to wire money but, the most recent story is the African prince needs money for bribes so that they can get access to the money and in return, they (the scam artist) claim that they will provide a large payoff. Another version of this story is that the prince needs to store the money temporarily in order to hide the money. They ask for personal bank information in order to transfer the money and then steal money. The latest version of this scam are people posing as your relatives on Facebook telling you that they know a wealthy person that needs money because to move because they don’t currently have access to their money. These are the worst types of the catfish scams and always involved a request for personal information or to send money.
RUSSIAN BRIDES SCAM (ROMANCE SCAM)
This is one of the easiest scams to catch but, so many people fall for it each year because it plays into their emotions. A typical Russian bride scam plays out where you are contacted by a women (it can be a man too) who is looking for an American mate to marry and settle down with. After a specified time, they start asking for money for things like internet (because it’s supposedly expensive in their country) plane tickets, travels expenses, etc. Another example is where the scammer will contact you, start developing feelings really quickly and then disappear. Once they reappear, they tell you that they’ve been in a horrible accident and that they need money for medical expenses, etc. These types of scams always involve asking for money to help them pay for things that can be narrowed down to medical expenses, travel costs or basic necessitates. Keep in mind that they don’t always come from Russia