The dating scene has been changing over the last decade due to the arrival of social media platforms and online dating websites. These allow people to make connections with others at great distances—possibilities grandma would have never dreamed of. But with these convenient romantic outlets have also come scams and frauds—something grandma didn’t have to worry about.
Now you have to worry about being catfished. In this day of online everything, we make personal and business connections routinely based solely on online photos and messages. It’s not a bad idea to progress slowly.
If you or someone you know might be developing a relationship online, and any one of the following catfishing red flags have been raised, do something!
Don’t fall “HOOK, LINE AND SINKER”
What is Catfishing?
The term catfish was originally made popular by the 2010 documentary film by the same name, which then transpired into a series on MTV. Catfishing generally refers to the process of luring someone into a relationship by means of a fictional online persona. In other words, people pretend to be someone they are not online in order to hook others into an online (never physical) romance.
A catfish may attempt to con victims out of money by emotionally manipulating them. However, obtaining money is not always the sole objective and some offenders may catfish for different reasons. These other motives can include:
- Hoodwinking you into sending sensitive images, such as nudes and then blackmailing you (usually for money but sometimes for more photographs);
- Duping you into giving away all your personal data for ID theft;
- Revenge – they might know you (like an ex-partner)
- The catfish might just get a kick out of it because of their own mental health issues.
Here are our signs to look out for if you think you’ve been catfished:
#1 They contacted you first.
You can’t lie, you were pretty excited to see that request from an attractive stranger but think about it… The likelihood of someone contacting you out of nowhere and starting a romance with you is highly unlikely.
If your new beau swears that they are from an English-speaking country but there‘s evidence that they have little command of the language, don‘t be afraid to ask questions.
#2 The relationship progresses quickly
Most catfishing stories you read will reveal just how strong and quickly a person will come-on to their potential victims. If within the first few exchanges the person seems to be pushing the relationship forward at a rapid pace without having even met you, think again before moving forward with this online relationship.
#3 They seem picture perfect.
You know the old saying: if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Does every picture look perfectly modeled and flawless? Are their interests broad enough to match with pretty much anyone online? Take these as warning signs and proceed with caution.
#4 They never want to show their face
There’s a reason why the hosts on “Catfish” always tell people who are in doubt to “Skype it out” — your online pal’s refusal to video chat with you is one of the biggest and most telling signs that you’re being duped.
#5 They are obsessed with you.
If you reply to a message and it’s a catfish, the chances are you will be ‘love bombed’. They ask lots of questions about you … but don’t give much information in return. They are reading you like a book at this point, taking notes, earning your trust. Often fraudsters will spend time looking at your social media profiles and pictures to get to know you better so it seems as if they are your perfect match and you have lots in common. It may seem as if someone is genuinely interested in you, but it’s best to be a little cautious if they are asking question after question but keeping their own details private. Dating of any kind is about getting to know another person – if they’re genuine and have nothing to hide they shouldn’t be afraid to answer your questions.
#6 Their social media presence is sparse
Do some of your own investigative work if you have a feeling of mistrust in your new sweetheart. Having a social media account these days won’t guarantee someone’s identity, Facebook has previously reported that about 3 percent to 4 percent of its active users are fake accounts. If you do decide to look at their accounts and it shows few friends and even fewer posts (being tagged in friend’s pictures is most helpful in this investigation), it might not be a real account or person.
#7 They have REALLY bad luck.
You want to video chat but at the last moment, an eagle swooped in through the window, snatched their phone and vanished into the unknown! You want to meet them in person, but there are always a million (VERY DETAILED) excuses as to why it’s not possible. Their car broke down, a family member died, or they’ve contracted a deadly disease and are in quarantine (ok that one might be true for the moment) for the next two years. (ok, maybe not that long?) Consider that they might not actually have bad luck, they just don’t want to meet up with you so you can catch the con.
#8 Their job requires a lot of travel… or they live abroad.
Not everyone who travels for a living is a con artist, but if the person you met online has a ”job” that causes them to travel often (particularly to places like the Middle East or Timbuktu), make a mental note. This may be an excuse for them to never be available for communication where they’d have to show their face.
#9 They have elaborate stories
Whether they are trying to gain your pity or your money, catfishers know how to pull on those emotional heartstrings. Tales of childhood trauma shared early on with a stranger should indicate that they are trying to create quick emotional connection. Beware of someone online with this habit.
#10 They need money.
Boom, there it is! They asked the magical question. He or she might start talking about a hardship or a sudden change of events in their life. They might also express that a relative or friend needs financial help of some sort. Typically, they’re trying to get you to let your guard down by way of emotion so that it’s easier for you to say “Yes.” When this happens, it’s time to take a step back and reconsider what’s going on. If someone online has romanced you (remember that you’ve never met in person!) and is asking for funds to be sent to them or a ‘friend,” take this as a major red flag. Never send money to someone you’ve never met, no matter how small the amount.
Casting a hook…
In this day of being online all the time, we make personal and business connections routinely based solely on online photos and messages. It’s not a bad idea to progress slowly. If you or someone you know might be developing a relationship online, and any one of these catfishing red flags have been raised, do something! If you want to be sure, there are services such as socialcatfish.com for people who think they are being catfished. The service can do some investigating and determine the validity of a person’s social media profiles. What they find out will either put you at ease or put you on alert. Like anything in life, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Do not be the next match made in cyber crime heaven.
Do Your Part. #BeCyberSmart.
For more information on how to keep yourself, your business and your family safe online follow Cyber Angels SA on any of our Social Media channels. For any information regarding Cyberlinx Security services, please go to our website www.cyberlinx.co.za