Do you know if you are being catfished? If you don’t know what it means, you may not know when you are being catfished. According to the Urban Dictionary a catfish is someone who pretends to be someone else they’re not using Facebook or other social media to create false identities, particularly to pursue deceptive online romances. However, they also use it for different purposes such as stalking or to bilk money from unsuspecting victims. Scary as that may seem, it has also been used to lure young people by pedophiles.
This has been around for a very long time but seems to have come to the forefront since the inception of the internet. Prior it had other names being spam, scams, phishing and the list goes on. Regardless of the tag given, it still comes down to a fraud being pulled on unknowing victims and has caused loss of money, self-worth and even in some cases, loss of lives. Because of a 2010 documentary done by two brothers in New York City, it has taken on a new name and become more prevalent. Nev Schulman and his brother Ariel made the documentary about Nev connecting with a Facebook friend Abby Pierce, an 8 year old artist. He soon got to know the whole family, even starting an online relationship with Abby’s half-sister Megan, only to find out he had been misled by the mother, Angela, who was the real artist as well as the one creating all the Facebook posts. There is a lot of controversy rather or not this documentary is based on real facts or is fake, but it did lead to the Schulman’s teaming up with MTV for a reality show, Catfish: The TV Show.
Now if you are thinking you are too smart for that, or it can’t happen to you, think again because it has happened to people just like you. A well-known case is Manti Te’o, a linebacker from Notre Dame. He thought he met the love of his life, Lennay Kekua, and they were developing a beautiful relationship. It was a great but sad love story, boy meets girl, they fall in love, girl gets in bad car accident, discovers she has leukemia, then passes away. Turns out that this beautiful love story is all a hoax said to have been perpetrated by another man using pictures of someone else on Facebook that had no idea her photo was being used. There was no real Lennay Kekua, and the outcome has caused problems for both Manti as well as the girl whose photo was used.
Stories of people being catfished are constantly on the news and all over the internet. It’s sad when you think you just met the person of your dreams only to find out they don’t exist. Worse are the people losing their life savings to these scams. With the influx of online dating sites, it seems it’s much easier for the catfish to find their prey. Maybe going over a few ways they find their victims can help you avoid being catfished.
Someone wants to friend on you on a social media site, for this we’ll use Facebook. They send you a message, they saw your picture, they think you are a wonderful person and would like to get to know you better. They say they are from the US or whatever country you live in, but their writing is not common to the way things are normally expressed.
This should immediately throw up a red flag because they obviously are not from where they say, not to mention, how they can tell what a wonderful person you are just by looking at your picture. Admittedly we all like being told nice things about ourselves, especially how good looking we are, or what a wonderful person we seem to be, but this is usually the first tell to the beginning of being catfished. Often they will send you a picture of themselves showing their amazing good looks. While you think you are getting this,
most times you are actually getting this instead.
There is an online site called tineye where you can put in an image and it will do a reverse look up to see if that image appears elsewhere on the internet. Since most of the pictures you’ll receive will be of famous people or someone they found on social media, using this site should let you know they are not the person in the picture. They will peruse your social media sites to find out your likes and dislikes. Of course, they will have the same taste in music, movies, books and so many other things. You think it’s a match made in heaven when really they are getting all of this information from the things you post. They will often check out your friends pages and sometimes even become friends with them too just to get more of your information. Just as they are checking you out, it might be a good idea to check them out as well. If you’re not finding much about them, chances are they are not who they seem to portray.
Playing on your sympathy is another way they find their victims. They often find people that just suffered the loss of a loved one, going through or just recovering from an illness, or another traumatic life issue.
They will portray themselves as having the same issue as you to gain your trust. Acting as if they know exactly how you feel, what you are going through, including pain and suffering will try to endear them to you so they can make you feel like they know what you are dealing with, when in reality they are setting you up to ask for money. Often they will take weeks to get to the fact they are not able to pay for medication, food or rent. Because you feel empathy for them, you offer to help by sending them money. What you don’t know is they are probably doing this to other people just like you and you are all being catfished by someone that cares nothing about your issues. Unless you know for a fact this person is really who they say, keep your money safe.
Dating sites are not always the safest places to meet people. While their commercials show loving couples that met, fell in love and married, I would wager to bet they are not real clients but actors being paid to say these things.
Just recently there was a news article about a woman who thought she was sending money to her new fiancée she had met through a dating site. After being bilked out of hundreds of thousands of dollars, she learned she was being catfished by a man in Nigeria. It’s too late for her to recover her money since he was in Nigeria, but take heed from her story and face the facts that very often when you think it’s too good to be true, it probably is. Google some of these dating sites with their name and the word complaints to see what comes up in the search. Don’t do the reviews because many times they are done by someone working for the dating site.
As a parent, watch who your children are communicating with on the internet. While some may say you are invading their privacy, in fact you are being a good parent and quite possibly saving your child from being a victim.
They have done numerous television shows on protecting your children from pedophiles that portray themselves as young people, all the while trolling for their next victims. Especially with so many young people using a smart phones or iPhone to access the internet, it’s a daunting task to keep track of what they are posting. What seems like a harmless post or selfie to them can give the pedophiles just the information they need to lure these young people right into their net. These young people want to tell everyone where they are going, posting photos of what they are wearing and giving out a lot of personal information allows the pedophile to connect with them acting as another person their age. Once they have gained their friendship, they will try to set up an in person meeting with them or just show up at the mall, movie theater or sporting event. Better safe than sorry is to know what your young people are doing, where they are going and know who they are meeting.
These are just a few ways to determine if you are being catfished but the first step is trying to avoid it being done to you. Often we want so badly to hear what they are telling us, we don’t want to admit it’s all lies. If you’ve already been catfished, tell me your story in the comments below. Your story may help someone else avoid being catfished.
If you feel you are being catfished, why not get a reading from me and we can take a better look at the situation. Set up an appointment and we can get started right away. Perhaps I can help you before it gets out of hand. I’m available for email or live chat readings.