Disclaimer: The below is solely intended for informational purposes and in no way constitutes legal advice or specific recommendations.
Since the birth of online chat rooms, people have been using the Internet to lie to others about their true identities.
This phenomenon, popularly known as catfishing, is about as common as you’d expect: A Consumer Reports survey found that 35 percent of the 114,000 respondents felt they’d been “grossly misled” by someone’s online profile.
There are numerous reasons people might engage in catfishing. Here are a few of the most common motives for creating a fake online persona:
A jilted lover may want to trick a former partner into falling for a fake person, then hurt them by revealing the truth. This is especially easy to do when you already have in-depth, intimate knowledge of the person you’re trying to catfish. Sometimes a close friend of the dumped person may carry out the catfishing to avenge their friend’s broken heart.
Catching A Cheater
If someone suspects their significant other of being unfaithful, they may set a catfish trap. Similar to a revenge scheme, this catfish will get their partner to fall for a fictional online stranger and admit they’re interested in a sexual or romantic relationship. The catfish then reveals their true identity and catches the would-be cheater in the act.
This common scheme is just one of the many ways con artists swindle people out of money over the internet. The scammer typically invests significant time and effort into an online “relationship” with their victim before asking for a large sum of money for some fictional emergency. The victim willingly complies out of love, only to discover their sweetie has disappeared with their life savings. According to the FBI, Americans lost $230 million to online dating fraud in 2016, and it’s likely that figure has grown since then.
Sometimes, catfish are simply bored and want to stir up some excitement in their lives. Maybe they’re working on their flirting skills, or they’re just curious to see if they can get someone to believe their lie. Whatever the case, they’re not after your money – these catfish are just playing a game.
Insecurity About Their Real Life
According to Love Is Respect, there’s one thing many catfish share: “They don’t feel confident in who they really are, so they pretend they’re someone else.” It’s easy to see how someone who’s insecure about their looks, their body, their job, their financial situation, etc. would find it appealing to play the role of someone “better.”
However, this can quickly backfire if the catfish develops real feelings for their victim, and must risk exposing themselves as a fraud.
Spotting And Protecting Yourself From A Catfish
Finding a good romantic partner can be hard enough without the fear of catfishing, but it’s a reality of the modern world of online dating. If you’re an impulsive and trusting person – two common traits of online scam victims – a catfish will usually pick up on this and try to carry out their charade.
Look out for these key signs that your new dating app match isn’t who they claim to be:
• Their interests are perfectly aligned with yours.
• They have limited photos or social connections.
• They don’t want to meet in person or over video.
• They quickly profess their love to you, even though you’ve never met.
• They ask you for money.
• They tell you stories that sound far-fetched or unbelievable.
• They just seem too good to be true.
If you have an uneasy feeling about the person you’re chatting with, do some digging into who they claim to be. Look them up on various social networks to see if they have consistent profiles. Run a reverse image search on their photos to see if they’re connected to a different name. Run a public records search to verify their identity. If things aren’t adding up, it might be time to move on.
Remember, the best thing you can do for your love life is research your potential partner and make sure they’re genuine before you give them your heart.