Well, a “catfish” is a term derived from an old fish story told to MTV’s CatfishNev Schulman about stimulating cod to increase the taste and texture. The story explains how fishermen used to have the problem of cod becoming bored and under-stimulated while being “tanked” during the boat ride from Alaska to China which would cause them to become stale and tasteless. Someone came up with an idea to put catfish in the tanks with the cod.
Being a natural predator (we haven’t been able to verify this as we couldn’t find any data supporting the claim and the fact that catfish are freshwater fish), the catfish would chase the cod and keep them moving and agile which, in return would produce a better quality cod.
Well, Vince (the husband of the woman; Angela who “catfished” Nev) compared this story to her efforts in contrast to their online relationship where she lured him in and “stimulated” him. This metaphor is an excellent way to put it since most of these online relationships are purely selfish and the catfish usually have a motive for what they’re doing.
What is Catfishing Online?
Because of the show, the term “catfish” describes a recently popular “outed” dating scam and is a term coined by “Nev” Yaniv Schulman and his film crew including Max Joseph (Nev’s partner from the TV show “Catfish”) leading back from the movie Catfish.
It is a reality-based television series based out on the movie Catfish and takes place all-throughout America. It documents just how fake online dating could actually be, and who people could actually be talking to when they thought they were talking to the person of their dreams. It currently has eight seasons and is still creating more episodes to this day.
How Does a Catfishing Scam Happen?
A catfish scam occurs when someone assumes a persona (or many) to trick another person into believing that they’re that person online. Often a “catfish” will go to extremes to continue their lie and typically use social networks, dating sites, and all different types of online forums.
They might display fake profile pictures, get a separate phone line, and even create a complete online profile with “fake” friends to cover their tracks. Often, there is a reason why people choose to create these fake profiles. Below you can see why someone might decide to create a phony catfish profile.
What Does It Mean When Someone Says That They’ve Been Catfished?
When someone says that they’ve been catfished, this tends to mean that they’ve been duped online by someone who isn’t who they say or present themselves as.
Why Are Online Dating Romance Scammers Called Catfish?
Online dating scams are one of the newest and most recently publicized catfishing scams although, they’ve been going on a lot longer than people know. Typically, the catfish reach out to a person through a forum or social network (like Facebook or a dating site like PlentyOfFish, OkCupid, etc.) and engages in conversation with them.
The catfish will create fake profiles and often elaborate stories to keep the charade going. Different things motivate each of these people. It’s most commonly a need to be liked or hide who they are because of a confidence issue. Sometimes it’s because of greed because they want your money but, in all cases, the catfish is lying about who they are, making it more imperative these days to find reputable online dating sites by comparing the reviews.
When Does Catfishing Start?
Catfishing starts when a catfish messages you on an online dating app or on your social media page, claiming they want to get to know you. They then ask you a bunch of questions, usually copy and pasted from a romance scammer’s playbook or other sources, and act like they care about wanting to learn more about you.
What Makes You a Potential Catfishing Victim?
After analyzing a survey that Sugar Cookie has performed, we have determined that either gender could be a victim to catfishing. Out of the 300 people that were surveyed in 2018, 43% of men and 28% of women have been catfished, showing that more men are catfishing victims than women.
If you’ve already been catfished, that doesn’t mean that you can’t get catfished again if you aren’t careful. According to the same survey, 40% of people have only been catfished once while 25% of people have been catfished twice.
Where Does Catfishing Happen?
If you use social media or dating apps, you are a potential victim of getting catfished automatically. According to the same survey, 38% of people have been catfished on dating apps, 30% of people have been catfished on dating sites, 21% of people were catfished on Facebook, 17% of people were catfished on Instagram, and 15% of people were catfished on Twitter.
What Are the Signs That You Are Being Catfished?
1. They refuse to video chat with you.
This is because the photo they are using was most likely stolen off of someone else’s social media profile. Because of this, they know if they show you their face, you will know they are lying and stop talking to them.
2. They ask you for money.
This could be for something minor that doesn’t require a lot of money or a full-blown emergency where you’re giving them a lot of money. It doesn’t matter how much money you give them or what the excuse is, if they are asking you for money they are most likely a catfish.
3. There are holes in your online partner’s story and it seems outrageous.
If something doesn’t add up about their story or it seems super crazy, then chances are you are talking to a catfish. For example, if your online partner is in the military and asks you to pay for anything of theirs, that would be considered a hole in their story because the military takes care of all costs.
Furthermore, if they went through a life-threatening or job-threatening emergency and need you to cover the costs, that would be an outrageous or crazy story.
4. They have poor grammar.
If someone is misspelling their words, adding extra spaces in their sentences, or not caring about where they put their punctuation, then chances are you are being catfished.
5. They move the relationship too fast.
They want to rush their trust with you and rush how you see them so that they can get what they want from you faster.
6. Their images show up everywhere on a Social Catfish reverse image search.
This shows that many people have stolen these images and are using them to create fake profiles.
7. Nothing shows up when performing a Social Catfish reverse social search.
A social search looks up information related to a name, email address, phone number, or a social media username. If no other information is coming up related to that information that could tie them back to a real person, then there’s no reason to trust that they are a real person.
For example, if their name has no records, their phone number is a VOIP number, and their email addresses or usernames aren’t tied to a real person, then its probably time to block them.
8. They always come up with excuses as to why they can’t meet with you in-person.
These excuses range from working out of the country, to money problems, to being trapped in some other country, and the list goes on and on.
9. They are constantly working overseas.
They want an excuse so that they don’t need to meet you in person, otherwise, you would know their true identity. Therefore, they lie and tell you they are working abroad so that you don’t constantly ask them to meet them in-person. This could range from being in the military to working at an oil rig.
10. Their images are so good-looking that you feel like they are too good to be true.
If someone that looks like a super-model is talking to you randomly on social media and wants to get to know you better, then that’s a sign to worry. In reality, it is very strange that someone would randomly message a stranger on social media to get to know them better unless you have encountered them in person before.
This is usually a sign that a scammer is trying to scam as many people as possible, so if you get a message similar to this, block them.
11. You have a gut feeling you are being catfished.
If something doesn’t seem quite right about your partner and they are showing all the above signs (plus more), then your gut feeling is probably right, and you should stop talking to them.
How to Avoid Being Catfished
If they won’t video chat with you or meet you in person, don’t start a relationship with them. This usually means that they are lying about their identity and will come up with any excuse to not let you see who they really are.
Don’t send them any money if they ask for it and block them instead. Any time your online lover asks you for money, it’s a scam. No one on the internet will ask you for money, especially if it’s an emergency because they would be relying on family members and friends to help them.
Reverse search any images or information of a potential match with Social Catfish. This will allow you to find out if your potential match is who they say they are.
Take the relationship slowly. This will reveal the person’s true intentions as to whether or not they really want to be with you and if they are taking the relationship seriously.
How to Find Out if Someone’s a Catfish with Social Catfish
Reverse Search Their Name. If nothing comes up for the name that you typed, then you are talking to a false identity. However, if the image of your online lover matches the name that they gave you with the information provided, then their identity checks out.
Reverse Search Their Phone Number. If their phone number is a VOIP number, then they used a third-party app to create that phone number to text and call you. Most scammers do this and don’t give you their actual phone number so that their identity can’t be traced back to them.
Reverse Search Their Email Address. If there is no personal information associated with the email address or it doesn’t match the information they gave you, chances are they are lying about their identity.
Reverse Search Their Social Media Username. If their social media username doesn’t match the information they provided you with or there is no information associated with the username, chances are they are catfishing you.
Reverse Search Their Image. If the search results of their image come back and show that many people are using their images on different dating sites and social media sites, then chances are you aren’t talking to the person of your dreams. However, if there is only one or no images showing up in the results and it matches the information they gave you, there is still hope.
True or False?: Catfishing Edition
True or False?: My online lover has many followers and likes on their social media page, which means they’re a real person.
False. A catfish can buy likes and followers for a super cheap price to fool their victims into believing they’re a real person with a following.
True or False?: My online lover sends me selfies all the time, which proves they are a real person.
False. A catfish can steal selfies from online profiles and coin them as their own pictures.
True or False?: My online lover talks to me on the phone, so that means they’re a real person.
False. Just because you can hear their voice and see the pictures they send you, it doesn’t prove they aren’t a catfish unless they do a live video chat with you.
True or False?: If my friends and family seem suspicious of my online partner, I should listen to their concerns and also be suspicious about them.
True! If your friends and family have concerns about your partner, it means they care about your well-being and want you to be safe while online dating. You should listen to their concerns and make sure you know the true identity of your online partner.
True or False?: If my online partner asks me for money for an emergency or any other reason, they are most likely trying to scam me.
True! Any time an online partner asks anyone for money, they are most likely trying to take your money for themselves. They don’t actually have an emergency or a reason to need money, other than to make extra cash off of you.
What Are the Different Types of Catfishing?
419 Nigerian Prince Scam
419 scams one of the oldest and most public catfishing profiles that initially started with mail then, fax and then email. The story has evolved from needing money to get the prince out of jail and then the personal information to wire money.
The most recent story is the African prince needs cash for bribes so that they can get access to the money and in return, they (the scam artist) claim that they will provide a significant payoff.
Another version of this story is that the prince needs to store the money temporarily to hide the money. They ask for personal bank information to transfer the money and then steal money.
The latest version of this scam is people posing as your relatives on Facebook telling you that they know a wealthy person that needs cash because to move because they don’t currently have access to their money. These are the worst types of catfishing scams and always involved a request for personal information or to send money.
Russian brides scam (Romance scam)
The Russian bride scam is one of the most straightforward 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 woman (it can be a man too) who is looking for an American mate to marry and settle down.
After a specified time, they start asking for money for things like the 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 quickly, and then disappear. Once they reappear, one gets told that they have 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 costs, travel costs or basic necessitates. Keep in mind that they don’t always come from Russia.
Most Popular Catfishing Stories: Exclusive to Social Catfish
We interviewed many women who have been catfished in a string of romance scams. These are some of the stories we have covered that document what they have gone through, how they found out they were talking to a romance scammer, and how they are doing today.
A woman named Helen has been communicating with a man named Steve on Google Hangouts since the beginning of this year. She met him on Facebook when he randomly sent a friend request to her and messaged her, wanting to become friends. He told her that he worked for Doctors Without Borders as an orthopedic surgeon through the United Nations in Syria.
His son supposedly goes to a boarding school in England but went on a class trip to Dubai because of his math smarts. He fell and hit his head super hard, and according to Steve, they need funds to pay for his head injury and to get them both back to the United States.
According to our search specialist, Linnie, the United Nations wouldn’t make anyone pay for their trip back home. Because of this reason, and the fact that our reverse image search showed that his pictures were being used for other dating profiles, we have indeed concluded that he was a catfish.
Betty Jean’s Story
In this heartbreaking story, we talked to Betty Jean who was going through a rough time after being scammed. She asked her friends and family for money and had sold her car and house to pay the romance scammer, thinking that it was true love and that he would buy her a nicer car and house. However, after she lost everything she started to realize that he was most likely a Nigerian romance scammer, aka a catfish.
For the last 3-4 months, she keeps trying to tell him how she knows he’s a romance scammer but denies it every single time, saying he still loves her. Because she sold her house to give the scammer money, she currently lives in a tent. She became super depressed because of this situation and has even tried to overdose. The doctors had to prescribe her with anti-depressant medication.
She met someone else online and has been able to video chat with him on a daily basis. She has told him about her past with being scammed, and he reassures her he would never do that to her. He has not asked for money yet, and she doesn’t think he ever will.
Catfish Psychology: Behind the Scheme
Why do people catfish others online?
Online relationships reduce their loneliness, so they continue to build upon fake profiles and meet new people becoming more involved (often romantically). This makes the relationship harder to keep as there is often a need to talk and see each other.
People will take legal, emotional risks to seek intense sensations. This involves creating fake personas and even more elaborate situations to continue these facades. Often there is no intention to hurt people, just to feel a particular emotion.
Believe it or not, but, most catfish are extroverts. They love communicating with other people and enjoy the attention which drives them to become a catfish.
Sometimes people catfish for revenge. A boyfriends’ ex or someone that screwed them over. You get the point. This is also known as cyberbullying.
These are the worst types of catfish. They are usually romance scammers, whose only concern is getting your money, and they will tell you whatever it takes to get it.
Catching a Cheating Significant Other
Sometimes, people create fake profiles on dating sites to catfish their cheating significant others and catch them on that particular dating site.
Contact law enforcement if they broke the law while catfishing you. As you learned last section, pretending to be someone else isn’t necessarily breaking the law. However, there are things that a catfish to do while pretending to be someone else that is breaking the law, such as scamming you out of money, stalking you, stealing your personal information, etc.
Report your catfishing incident to the FTC. There, they can update their data to keep the public informed on how many catfishing victims there has been.
Gather all their information and keep messaging them if there’s an investigation going. If there’s no investigation, block them. Only keep the conversations going to provide law enforcement with evidence on what is going on. Make sure to screenshot the evidence or save the messages on your phone. If they aren’t doing anything illegal, then stop all contact with them and block them.
Talk to friends and family for additional support. They care about you and want to make sure you are safe, healthy, and talking to people who also want the best for you. If they suspect anything wrong with your online partner, it’s best to listen to them and talk to them about it to come up with the best judgment on what to do for your situation.
If you need additional help, don’t be afraid to talk to a therapist. Therapy has proven to be a healthy way to get help when it comes to getting past the emotional trauma you might be feeling.
How to End Your Online Relationship with Your Catfish
To end a relationship with a catfish, tell them truthfully about how they have hurt you by lying to you about their identity. Tell them that you can no longer keep a relationship with them, then block them off of your social media platforms and cell phone.
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Who We Are
Social Catfish is an online dating investigation service based in California, USA. We verify information to confirm if the person that you've met online is really who they say they are.
What We Do
We do in depth checks using our own proprietary online tools to verify things like images, social profiles, phone numbers, emails, jobs and a lot more to make sure that you have the most information about the person that you've met online. We are the only company doing verification of public information such as jobs, phone numbers criminal checks as well as social profiles and images.
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