What Is Catfishing? 7 Ways to Avoid Being Catfished

Most people have heard of catfishing in the media; thanks to television shows like Nev Schulman’s reality show Catfish, the dangers of catfishing are more present in the minds of those who frequently browse online. But even so, not everyone knows what a catfish is or how to spot one. In this article, learn how to identify a catfish and avoid being catfished in online relationships.

Avoid being catfished

What is a catfish?

The catfishing meaning is defined as luring someone online using a fake identity, false information, or other untrue pretenses. It’s a common scam often used to get money, information, or other resources from victims.

In most cases, a catfish is someone looking to target others for their personal gain. Catfishing is a malicious act; the perpetrator picks someone they believe would be susceptible to their ploy and tries to manipulate them.

The catfish might lure someone under the guise of friendship or romantic interest using apps like Bumble or Tinder. They might connect with you through an online hobby group or chat. In most cases, the catfish is looking for financial assistance, but this isn’t always the goal. Whatever the case may be, it’s important to know what catfishing looks like so you can stop the relationship before you become a victim.

7 signs you’re being catfished

Sometimes catfishers can be so clever that you don’t even realize you’re being catfished. However, there are warning signs to watch out for that could indicate the person you’re talking with isn’t who they seem. When you meet someone online, remember these 7 signs that could indicate you’re being catfished.

  • You never see the person's face in real time
  • They don't want to Skype or meet up
  • The person asks for money or financial help
  • They seem too good to be true
  • The relationship progresses quickly
  • The details don't add up
  • They don't have a social media presence

You never see the person’s face in real time

The most obvious sign of a catfish is that they never show their face. Some people don’t like to take pictures of themselves, but if you never see the person’s face, it’s likely they aren’t who they claim to be.

Even if the person does send you photos, editing or stealing photos is easy to do on the Internet. There’s no guarantee that the pictures you see are real. Sending videos or doing a video chat is a better way to authenticate the true identity of the person you’re talking to. 

They don’t want to Skype or meet up

If they refuse to do a video call or meet in person, it’s very likely they’re catfishing you. In our technological day and age, a video call is easy; be wary if someone claims they can’t or don’t want to. With a video call, you can ensure that the person is at least physically who they claim to be.

If you meet up with someone you haven’t seen in person before, always bring someone else with you or share your location with a trusted friend. Though meeting up is an easy way to see if someone is who they claim, it can also be dangerous. Only meet in public places for your own safety.

The person asks for money or financial help

Many catfishers aim to get money from victims. If someone you just met asks for money or tries to emotionally manipulate you with stories of their hardships, it’s a red flag. Never give out your bank account information to anyone, especially someone you met online. If you need to send money to someone you know and trust, use a protected cash-sending service like PayPal or Venmo.

They seem too good to be true

The adage “if something seems too good to be true, it probably is” applies here. If someone you met online seems perfect, they probably aren’t real. Catfishers often use fake profiles, doctored photos, and vague information to lure in as many victims as possible. Don’t be afraid to push for more information, photos, or video calls. If the person feels like you’re not an easy target, in many cases, they will bail.

The relationship progresses quickly

A catfish wants to get something from you and move on; they won’t spend years trying to curate their target. If you feel like your relationship with the person is moving too quickly, say something. These perpetrators often fast-track an online friendship or romantic relationship to get what they want, whether it be money or personal information. They use online dating sites or social media accounts to cultivate these relationships, but they are red flags.

The details don’t add up

If the stories and details you hear from a person online don’t make sense, they may be a catfish. Catfishers will lie to try and manipulate you; they often make up fake stories or fake details about their lives to try and connect with you. If the things they tell you sound suspicious, it’s possible they aren’t telling the truth about who they are.

They don’t have a social media presence

Not everyone likes to use social media. If someone doesn’t have Facebook, it isn’t immediately a cause for concern. However, if you can’t find the person anywhere online, they’re likely attempting to catfish you. Most people have some form of social media or online presence, however insignificant it may be.

What to do if you've been catfished

If you're currently in a catfish situation, or believe you may be about to become a victim of a catfish, it's important to end the relationship as soon as possible. However, if you've already given the scammer money or information, make sure to take the proper steps to report the incident first.

If you've been scammed and did not give the scammer anything of value, like money or sensitive personal information, then end contact with the person immediately. Take screenshots or records of the conversation if you feel like you may need those for the future, then block the person's number and end their access to your online accounts. Many apps, like Instagram or Tinder, have a reporting feature where you can report suspicious accounts to moderators. If you've been catfished, report the account to the authorities of the apps to get their account removed or banned.

If you did send money, personal data, or other forms of aid to the scammer, contact the police before you cut contact. Though they may not be able to restore your assets, they can best advise you on the next steps to take.