In an age ruled by the internet, some of our biggest dangers lurk on those very webpages we’ve come to love. Getting scammed on the internet by a Catphish is more common than you’d realize, especially if you frequently use online dating websites or networking platforms. Staying safe when using these services in important. We will discuss catphishing scams, and what you need to know about these notorious scams.
What Is Catphishing?
“Catphishing can be used as a means to gain money, personal details, or even notoriety.” – IACP.
Someone who catphishes others online is a person, usually from places like Nigeria or Russia, using fake pictures, information, and personality to pose as someone who could be romantically viable for a relationship. Using expert manipulation tactics, they target vulnerable singles with the hopes of extorting their emotions to get money or private information to hack into their accounts.
These scams are very devious and can be detrimental to financial stability as well as have major mental trauma occur after the victim has realized what truly happened. Catphising is a major method used in romance scams online, and since there is almost 15,000 complaints a year about these occurrences, it’s a problem that needs to be addressed.
Catfishing VS Catphising
You may be familiar with the term catfishing, especially if you’ve seen the popular MTV show based around debunking these fraud identity schemes. Phising is similar, in the sense that both acts are designed as a fraud and it’s an imposter with stolen identity, but the motives lay mainly with the end goal. Catphising is done with the hopes of gaining money or personal information that can be used to steal from you.
A lot of the time, someone who is a catfish may not have malicious as motives. You may have heard of lonely people using attractive pictures for the attention, or trying to fake their way into someone’s heart without being honest. Sometimes, a catfish is just a confused individual who poses no threat… but a catphish will always be a danger to you.
Both of these deceitful tactics are problematic and you should do your best to avoid anyone who isn’t who they say or appear to be. Plus, it’s illegal to catfish in the USA. People have gone to jail for pretending to be someone online, so if you are a victim of this, you can still get help.
Reasons Scammers Will Catphish
In general, the whole idea behind catphishing is to get money from someone by playing on delicate heart strings. You hear about this most commonly, but it’s not the only reason that someone may try to deceive you.
Other forms of catphishing include getting close to you romantically in order to score personal information that can be used to hack into your private accounts. This could be your bank account, business accounts, even shopping accounts to get information. If you’ve ever answered those security questions like “the name of your childhood pet”, you’ll know the kind of details that a catphish may be trying to score.
Another way catphishing is used against high-profile targets, such as the NBA star Chris “Birdman” Anderson who was tricked online by a devious woman. Through their romance, she pretended to be a younger girl, and then posed as the teen’s mother to blackmail Anderson into sending “hush money”. In the end, it nearly destroyed his career, and catphishing can be used to bring other popular celebrities down.
Either way, a catphish is never lying to you for a good reason, and it always come back to hurt you in the end.
How Catphising Happens
Like all romance scams, a catphish account will build a profile with fake images, answers to questions, and even personalities. They usually use dating sites and other networking chatrooms and forums, and even Facebook can have a fair share of fraudsters on the platform.
First, a catphish will decide what kind of person they want to target. Sometimes the term “spear phishing” is used for this when a scammer goes for a specific demographic of people. The elderly or widowed are the most common marks for these frauds.
By using compliments, sob stories, heartfelt sentiments, and quickly moving feelings and romantic promises or inclinations, a catphish will convince you to do things that are out of character. From sending large amounts of money or sharing personal details like your email or Amazon passwords, a catphish uses lies and manipulation tactics to swindle you out of money.
The whole time, they’ll make you feel good… unless you try to say no. Often times, a catphish will use dramatic stories to speed up the process. Concepts like soul mates, twin flames, or love at first sight will be employed to speed the relationship up past a healthy time frame.
Once they feel you’re in their trap, they begin to twist things. A catphish may claim to need money from you for many reasons, but it is usually in relationship to being able to visit or marry you. Maybe they claim to be stranded, or can’t afford a plane ticket, or want the money to buy a house close to you. All of these lies are exactly that – false.
It’s hard to believe someone could fake such emotions, but you need to remember that a catphish is well-versed and has lots of practice in romance scams. They know the script, they know what you want to hear, and they can morph into anyone you desire.
3 Signs You’re Being Catphished
Think about how many different people you talk to a week on the internet. Strangers, family, friends… the amount is pretty staggering if you frequent social media websites. On a dating app, you can strike up a conversation with just about anyone at anytime, and there isn’t always a good way to verify they are genuine people.
Three major warning signs can help you identify a brewing romance scam done by a catphish before you catch those feelings, and you can protect yourself early on by learning these signs and avoiding them when they begin to happen. Stay alert and immediately take a step back from the relationship if you start to see any of these 3 tactics arise.
1. The person asks for your personal details
Getting to know the person you’re flirting with isn’t a crime, and it’s a pretty common online dating route. You want to know about the person you’re attracted too, but a scammer will get very specific about the questions they are asking you. It stems beyond the sweet “what’s your favorite color” questions and into very personal territory quite quickly.
Catphish accounts will be curious about money-related topics, maybe asking about recent settlements you’ve gotten, or how much money is in your savings account. They may even try to acquire very personal information like a social security number or address, with various excuses and claims about what they really need it for.
2. You are being made unrealistic promises or threats
Many people dream of meeting their prince charming or gorgeous princess online, but the truth is… you probably won’t fall so deeply in love within a week that marriage seems realistic at the moment. There is always an exception to the rule, but on online dating, that sort of promise so soon is unrealistic.
Online daters who have grand promises to make you are usually a bad sign. They promise big vacations or marriage, buying a house together, and other big dreams and plans that are unrealistically scripted.
Another common manipulation tactics is the subtle threats a person may make if you hesitate to send money. If the user claims to be in danger needing money, they’ll claim that they’ll come to harm if you don’t help. Other times, they may claim they’ll starve, or even at times, die… all unless you just send that cash and give them a hand. This is a pretty unrealistic scenario, and if it is real, they should be contacting the police; not strangers online.
3. Things are moving at an alarming speed
Like it was mentioned, marriage isn’t really a healthy idea to consider with someone you just met, but a scammer will use this tactic. Women especially are easily victim to a handsome man who promises her the world plus a big, sparkly ring. Don’t get caught up in the bluster of high hormones and the intoxication of being cared for, and step back to review the relationship.
Too many times, a scam is successful because the catphish was consistent and bombarding in their affection. The word “love” is dropped within days, sometimes hours, and the compliments are endless. They speak constantly of a future together, and making plans, and from there it’s the fast track to wanting your money and information.
This isn’t normal for most dating situations. Some people date for years before coming to this point, and others may take months, but there should always be at least a few face-to-face interactions before it’s even a subject on the table. If your online romance is moving fast enough to give you whiplash, it’s time to stop and think a little harder.
5 Ways To Protect Yourself
There is no reason to give up on online dating out of fear of being catphished. These instances do happen, but they’re entirely preventable. Follow these 5 steps to stay safe against catphishing online.
1. Only use safe dating websites
The more reliable the website you choose to use to find love, the less likely you’ll be approached by a catphish. I have several recommendations for safe sites where members are verified as real people. Plus, paid membership sites like Adult Friend Finder, Match, or eHarmony are excellent at deterring a scammer. Why would they pay money to get money?
Sites to be worried about when it comes to being catphished include ones that don’t need any form of verification or have large communities from all over the world. Facebook is one culprit of being a popular breeding group for scammers, but you can see catphish on smaller scale sites like Google Hangouts and Tinder as well.
2. Conduct background checks and reverse image searches
When the chemistry is great and things are moving smoothly, it’s easy to blind yourself to the red flags. It can also be just as easy to make them up out of fear of being burned. Anyone you get close with online, you should check up on.
Reverse image checking programs are free to use and will tell you where the image comes from and other places it’s been used. Background checks will verify a name, backstory, and even provide criminal records and other valuable information for trusting a potential online date.
To fully protect yourself, make sure to run a quick background check on who you are speaking to online. Running a check will reveal details on public records, addresses, phone numbers, police records, addresses, and much more.
This is the ONLY way to ensure you are speaking to the correct person online. We highly recommend BeenVerified for background checks. They have the largest database and are highly renowned in this space.
3. Frequently change passwords and never give out your email
Don’t ever be hasty to give out your email on a dating site. This is how most romance scams work is through private emailing and from there, they can use your email to try and sink into your other accounts or even track your online activity to build up a profile to better lure you in with.
Keep things on the app where it can be traced, and if you feel like someone has been digging a little too deeply for comfort, switch up some passwords. It’s good to do this anyway, even without worrying about catphishing, since there are many other types of cyber attacks that could happen.
4. Don’t send money to anyone on the Internet
It shouldn’t need to be said, but sometimes it’s easy to forget. Unless you’re prepared to never see the money again in a worst case scenario, don’t send someone money online. This goes for anything that isn’t related to the purchase of goods and services, commissions, or other methods of ecommerce.
Many online personal loans you make to friends or partners you haven’t met will result in that money being gone forever. Sure, sometimes we have a generous heart and want to donate or help out, and that’s fine! Make sure it’s your choice and you can afford it if it’s never returned to you.
5. Pay attention to spelling and English skills
Catphishing usually will be done by someone who isn’t a USA native, and their spelling and poor English can be an easy way to tell this is a scammer. Not everyone will be able to be 100% literate, of course, but you can notice a pattern between genuine bad grammar and someone who is faking being American. This shouldn’t be the only defining factor in deciding someone is a catphish, but instead used in conjunction with all the other warning signs. If someone claims to be American but can’t figure out the basics of English, it’s a safe bet they’re lying.