Developing friendships and relationships online can be risky business. The effortlessness of creating social media handles, new email accounts, and dating profiles, makes it easier than ever to connect with others. But unfortunately, not every person you could come in contact with online has good intentions. Being catfished on Facebook or hearing terrible tinder catfish stories or eharmony fake profiles are real.
In fact, of the 40 million people who are involved in online dating, many will be catfishes. What exactly is a catfish? According to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, a catfish is any person who “sets up a false personal profile on a social networking site for fraudulent or deceptive purposes.”
Their motivations? Loneliness, revenge, curiosity, boredom or the prospect of gaining money are common. Some catfishes even use fake profiles to gain the attention of those to which they are attracted, to steal the identity of others, or to stalk and groom underage children.
Though some catfishes are simply bored young people looking for excitement and attention, others are calculated manipulators who know just how to keep their potential victims “on the hook”. They lie, manipulate, and cover their tracks with deception. With practice, catfishes become masterminds at influencing others.
Thankfully there are ways to pinpoint a catfish and verify a person’s identity online. Do you think someone might be catfishing you? Use the following four techniques to avoid being catfished! This is how to stop catfishing online.
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#1 Let Google Be Your Guide
The first way to tell if someone is catfishing you is to check to see if their pictures and messages are authentic. By doing a reverse image search, you can verify that the photos are real and not stock pictures or images stolen from someone else. If you find your beau’s picture on a bunch of different dating or social media profiles, he might be a catfish.
But don’t stop there! If some of the messages you’re receiving seem professionally written or “too good to be true”, try copying and pasting some of it into Google search. If the heart written poem or love note pops up on other pages, you might have a catfish on your hands and not a Shakespeare.
#2 Social Media Stalk
One of the best ways to identify a catfish
is through their social media profiles. Common catfish red flags include very few personal photos, sparse or inactive posting, and having a small number of friends or followers even though their page has been active for some time.
Also, you should check to see if the person has other profiles using the same handle. For example, if their email or Instagram name is “TheOne1724”, try copying this same handle into Google and see if other accounts or blogs are linked. If so, review these accounts for more clues and proceed with caution.
#3 Ask for Verification
In the early stages of communicating, many people are understandably wary of sending personal pictures or Skyping with strangers. But after communicating online for a considerable amount of time, it’s okay to ask for verification that your online buddy is a friend and not foe.
So, how do you do this? Ask them to send a picture touching their eye or holding up a piece of paper with a certain code word on it. Sure, it sounds strange, but this is one sure fire way to make sure the person you see in the picture is really who you are communicating with. You can also ask them to Skype or Facetime. Nothing says ‘I’m real’ like seeing their face live.
#4 Get to Know Their Social Network
Mom always said you are who you hang out with. If you have been speaking with someone for a while, it is not out of the question to want to know more about their friends and family. Ask them to share pics, stories, or even let you talk with their friends. By tapping into their social network, you have new touch points to verify who they are. If you are able to get a friend’s name, verify them on social media. Another tactic is to see if you can connect with a friend or family member so you can speak to them privately. If you can make this happen, you can quickly see if there are any holes in their story. Granted, there have been stories where multiple people are involved, or worse, the same person is pretending to be multiple people–craziness!
If they are not willing to introduce you to a friend or family member doesn’t mean they are hiding anything but does raise a flag. From experience, this tactic takes time and relies on your ability to build a strong relationship with the person.
#5 Hire a Private Investigator
Often times, the simple requests above are met with resistance from catfishers who don’t want to give up the game. If steps one through three don’t cancel or confirm your suspicions, your best bet might be hiring someone who investigates for a living.
Though hiring a private investigating firm might seem like too expensive of a step for something as simple as confirming a person’s identity, it is important to remember that catfishing can happen to anyone and the other person’s not-so-nice motives could have drastic affects on your life (even NFL star Manti Teo was a victim).
Regardless of which verification options you choose, the key is to be proactive about protecting yourself from manipulators and ending communication early on if things don’t feel right. Protecting yourself, your finances, and identity from online deception is of utmost importance, even if it means hiring someone to do the work for you.
Take the proper steps to avoid being catfished. Knowledge will be your biggest asset. Follow the tips above to know to how to stop a catfish. If you take the time to investigate and learn more about the person, you will have a better chance of meeting the right and real person you were looking for.
If you have a already been catfished, read this article on what to do if you’re being catfished.