“I’d get a message once a week that someone had used my picture. And then it just snowballed. They were stealing money and defrauding them using my image.” said Tom Ernsting, who is an Instagram model.
This is catfishing in general and it’s been happening on major social media platforms.
Catfishing Is Pathetic and Disrespectful
Catfishing is a term used when a stranger pretends to be someone else and hides their social media information. For instance, boys who pretend to be girls online or the other way around, which is way more common.
Now, strangers are using pictures and private information of another person to scam other people online, make money out of false relationships or tarnish a celebrity’s reputation.
Catfishing was coined in 2010 and has become increasingly common since then as connected devices are more pervasive now.
In February 18, 2021, the police arrested a fraudulent group in Manhattan, who was involved in catfishing and made $55 million
What is the Point of Catfishing?
The simple answer can be: making money from false relationships, but we will drill down to the main catfishing reasons. If a person is lonely, depressed, and has no social connections in real life, he is more likely to get involved in catfishing to boost their self-esteem. Some people are trolls and use false identities to tarnish people’s reputations.
Catfishing in this way can be out of pure jealousy. Taking revenge on a person you hate or despise can be another reason for catfishing. You can find a lot of catfishing cases that include an ex-boyfriend or ex-husband. People who don’t identify themselves as male or female might also create a false identity online to discover their sexuality.
Examples of Catfishing
1. Falling in Love With a Scottish Model Who Turned Out to be Her Friend
Laura Anderson, a Scottish star in a reality TV show Love Island, had a similar catfishing experience. She shared a story about a guy who thought he was in love with Laura after three months of exchanging text messages, but it turns out to be a stranger. She was shell-shocked that how easy it is to fool online users and create an Instagram story about the whole problem.
2. Catfishing My Best Friend for 10 Years
Michonne shared her story about talking to a guy on Myspace who was lovely and obsessed with tattoos. However, the guy never showed up for a date or a hangout plan. That guy is also a friend of Michonne’s girlfriend, Amanda, who was actually catfishing Michonne for many years.
3. Faking It Big Time on TikTok
Here is another catfishing problem that is way too common that we know. Individuals can create a profile and fake themselves as a celebrity or a self-help Guru to mint money from lonely individuals.
The Effects of Catfishing
Catfishing can take a toll on your mental health. Imagine a person who was emotionally attached to a stranger online, shared his inside feelings, and the stranger turns out to be an impostor.
Catfishing can hurt your mental space, and the worst part, you will lose trust in humans. Further, there is also an element of embarrassment and financial loss.
A scammer online can fool you easily if you are using dating apps and ask you to invest in crypto coins or real estate investments.
All of this happens after weeks of back and forth communication between two people. Catfishing is scary, and there is no direct way to figure out if you are being catfished or not.
Some Red Flags That You Are Being Catfished
If your new online friend or crush is talking to you every day, here are a few signs you should be wary of and ensure you are not a victim of catfishing:
- Refusing to start a video call or face-to-face conversation
- Creating a sob story or shady back up story to start a relationship
- Sharing professional pictures on social media, Snapchat, or Instagram
- Avoiding a date night or an in-person meeting
- Expressing love and affection without getting to know you first
How to Avoid Being Catfished
With a wide array of online dating sites and apps available, catfishing a person is easier than before. People no longer mingle or hook up in a bar; they use dating apps and swipe right to meet new people. According to a survey, more than 30% of people online have been catfished. If you want to avoid being catfished, here are a few tricks you need to learn:
Ask family and friends
If you have started talking to a stranger online, the easiest way to find out if he or she is real is to ask your close loved ones or friends about them. There might be a person in your social circle who is catfishing you, and asking your friends can be super helpful.
Search their picture on Google
A Simple Google search can give you an insight about into a stranger is legit or not. If a person is talking to you online, you can save his or her and search it on Google. If the person is fake, you might see another name below the picture or find it online in many cases. The process is called reverse image search and it is easy for anyone to do it.
Look for clinginess
Most catfishers try to exploit people via dating apps like Tinder, Bumble or Mingle because they know people are vulnerable when it comes to love. This is where you should be wary of anything that smells fishy. If a stranger online is being too clingy and love struck, he or she is faking it in most cases. Further, if they confess love and emotions way too early, it is a big red flag.
Video call them
If you are talking to a stranger online for quite a few weeks now, ask them to a video call to see if he or she is real. In this way, you will find out the reality of your situation. However, if you are talking to a catfisher, he won’t agree for a video call or personal pictures and might share senseless stories. Don’t be afraid to ask them online their real name or where they work at. A real person won’t hide personal information!
Believe your instincts
Sometimes, you have to trust your basic instincts. As humans, we are hardwired to sense danger or trouble, you should go with your guts. If you think a stranger online is not what you imagine, the best route is to block them or ignore their texts.
Why is Catfishing Still Common When People Know the Red Flags?
Some people are lonely and depressed. They have no one to talk to, so catfishers try to befriend them online and exploit their loneliness and depression. The easiest way for catfishers and scammers to target is online dating apps.
Besides people finding real love and relationships, many lonely people are just looking for someone to talk to and share their personal feelings. As we are getting restricted to our houses more, the usage of online dating is skyrocketing.
Therefore, people are still being catfished because they are lonely and need company.
Why Did People Start Catfishing Scams during the Pandemic?
The COVID-19 pandemic forced people to stay in their homes and maintain social distancing. Many people were lonely and isolated (including me) and looking for something fun to do.
Many people started creating NSFW groups and fake identities to fulfill their desires. Because there was nothing else to do at home, creating a fake identity and catfishing people was exciting for many people online.
There was a story on Reddit where a catfisher confessed that he started catfishing people out of loneliness and boredom. The person remained anonymous and said that he created a fake NSFW account of a girl and talked to many desperate people online, including male, female, and other genders.
It turns out loneliness and boredom is the root of all catfishing problems.
Be Wary of Catfishing Scams
We hope now you have a clear picture of what’s happening online and how people are being catfished. And, this guide can help you prevent any catfishing or online scams and make you aware of the online dangers.