What is catfishing?
Catfishing is when someone creates a fake online identity hoping to find people into some sort of online relationship, often romantic, with the ultimate goal being to steal your money or identity for fraudulent purposes.
They usually use social media networks, dating sites and any types on online forums that may work for them. These scammers are likely to display fake profile pictures of attractive people to really get you going, and many even create a complete fake online profile with fake friends to cover their tracks.
There are various of reasons why people create fake profiles, with some of them being psychological such as loneliness, or wanting to hide because of confidence issues, and a desperate need by some to be liked – even if it is not their real identity.
Studies have shown that in most of the cases it is because they want to steal your money, but in reality every catfish scam is always people lying about who they are.
How does a catfishing scam work?
If you have spent any time on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, or online dating forums, you may have come across a profile whose story and conversation seemed amazingly interesting, and almost too good to be true.
Anything which looks too good to be true, usually IS too good to be true. If you were tempted to respond to any romantic conversations on such a profile, you could have been hooked, drawn in, and become a victim of a catfish!
Here are some of the ways they use to dupe you into falling for their scamming operations.
- They try to befriend you by pretending that you have some common interests, or pretending to need your help.
- If a true relationship is built up with you, a catfish may claim to be in trouble and need financial assistance. Based on the strength of the relationship, you could be inclined to provide money.
- Should someone appear to be falling for you after very little contact, and begin to say and write all sorts of flattering and loving things about you – beware! This may be a catfish on the prowl! The next step will be to ask you for money.
- If someone is reluctant to talk on the phone, and only wants to communicate via e-mail or chat, which prevents you from seeing them in person, there could be something fishy going on.
- If you are able to talk to someone, and the voice and accent does not match, it is more than likely a scam.
- Americans tend to have a passion for royalty, including African royalty. A favourite scam is one that purports to come from an African prince who needs the money for bribes to avoid being arrested, or needs a temporary bank account to store some cash. He will undoubtedly make a generous cash offer to use your bank account, as well as ask for bank details to speedily facilitate the process.
- African princes are highly regarded in their own countries, and spoilt by their families with money and goods. Why would they ask you for money instead of getting it from family and friends they have always had? The bottom line is NEVER GIVE YOUR BANK INFORMATION OUT, whether it be to princes, princesses, or anyone else with a passionate sob story. All the money that you have could vanish like mist in the morning sunlight.
- A typical marriage scam that many, both women, and men have fallen for, especially the lonely, is that of being contacted by a foreign man or woman, (often claiming to be Russian) who is looking for an American mate to settle down with. After much to and fro correspondence, you may feel you have at last met your soul mate, and when the request comes for money to pay for internet, travel expenses, or even plane tickets, you are only too happy to oblige. Once the scam has played out, you can kiss your money goodbye, including the prospective mate who wanted so desperately to settle down with you.
How to protect yourself against catfishing scams.
There are ways to protect yourself against catfishing, but the basic rule is to always be vigilant, and trust your gut feeling if you feel that something is not right.
- When using social media or dating sites, trust your judgement and avoid those making extravagant claims about themselves.
- Beware of anyone who wants to dive right into an online relationship without really knowing you.
- If someone has a long story to tell you, read it carefully through to the end to make certain there are no inconsistencies. Liars often forget what they said in the beginning of a story, and the end result may not be the same as the start.
- Do not accept any online job offers. You will be asked to provide your personal details to make the job official, and your identity can be stolen and used for fraudulent purposes.
- If someone claims to live in the US, but has really bad grammar, be very wary. This person may not be residing in the US.
- Some pictures posted on the sites may also look as if they have come out of Hollywood – and they probably do! Take care not to be taken in by these over-glamourous pictures which have more than likely been garnered from somewhere on the internet.
- Remember that the likelihood of someone contacting you out of the blue to start a romantic interlude, is very unlikely. If anyone is contacting you with this in mind, be careful. It is probably a catfish with fraud in mind, so do not respond.
Catfish scammers will always make up far-fetched lies to make you feel sorry for them. If they succeed, they will play on your feelings and ask for money.
Think twice before giving anyone any money or sensitive information no matter how sorry you feel for them.
Once you have given someone your username, password, ID number, Social Security Number, or any other personal info, you are in the prime position of becoming a victim of identity theft.