Find real love online – How to spot a Catfish

valentine's day catfishing

Dating in the digital age opens up seemingly endless possibilities for finding romance. With Valentine’s Day around the corner – it’s important to remember that dating apps can be misused for digital deception. Using a dating app to find your perfect match is like going to the library to find the perfect book – there are a lot of different books you can browse through until you find the book (or books 😉 ) you’d like to check out. Just like you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover – you shouldn’t judge a dating profile on face value alone.  To avoid a catfish, you have to keep it REAL:

  • Research before you romance
  • Examine their photos
  • Ask for evidence
  • Look out for red flags

With these 4 helpful tips, you can avoid catching a catfish and find real love this Valentine’s Day!

What is Catfishing?


There might be plenty of fish in the sea, but how do you avoid catching a catfish?

Catfishing – According to Miriam-Webster’s online dictionary, catfishing is defined as “a person who sets up a false personal profile on a social networking site for fraudulent or deceptive purposes”. Catfishing often occurs in a romantic context – such as online dating platforms. Essentially, someone creates a realistic looking profile with the intent of deceiving other users. The term “catfishing”was popularized by MTV’s show, “Catfish” where people who believe they are being deceived online can hunt down the real face behind those online personas with the help of internet detectives Nev and Max. Netflix’s new show “The Circle” shows how easy it can be to trick others into thinking you’re someone you are not.

catfishing
You never know who might be hiding behind a fake profile.

Interacting with a “catfish” may leave you with much more than a broken heart; the United States Federal Trade Comission has warned consumers of the risks posed by “romance scammers” who engage in relationships and build up trust with their victims in order to scam them out of money. Spotting a catfish in time can help keep you safe from this digital deception.

1. Research before you romance

Catfishing research
Do a quick fact check – protect yourself from a broken heart and empty bank account.

With social media and Google you can easily double check basic facts about your matches.

Do a Facebook fact check. Some dating apps require a login through Facebook – this means you can probably find your match there. According to Nev and Max from Catfish, Facebook profiles with less than 100 friends might be fake. If someone does have a Facebook profile and you can look at their pictures, check to see if they are tagged in any photos by their friends (You can also use this method on Instagram!). If someone isn’t tagged in any photos – this is one indication that this profile might not belong to a real person.

Or, do a Google search! Catfishes are often great story tellers, because they want to deceive you. If they tell you something that seems too good to be true, see if you can find proof online that backs up their story.

2. Examine their photos

catfishing
A picture is worth a thousand words – so use it!

One way you can easily catch a catfish is by checking out their photos. If you come across a profile with extremely high quality photos, be wary. If someone only has professional looking photos, this might be a sign that they are using stock photos. However, it could be that your new match has a passion for photography – so be sure to consider photos alongside other pieces of evidence.

Doing a reverse image search is one way that you can protect yourself from catfish. Google allows you to search by images. Simply take the image of your new romantic interest and upload it into the image search. You can then see where their picture is being used on the internet. If there are multiple social media accounts using the same picture under different names – you’ve probably caught yourself a catfish.

Additionally, if you match with a public figure, consider the slim chances that you were somehow lucky enough to find this person on a dating app. Although some models and celebrities are probably using dating apps – this is an unlikely scenario.

If you truly believe you’ve matched with a celeb proceed to tip 3 to verify their identity.

3. Ask for evidence

catfish selfie
Asking for specific pictures is a fun way to verify someone’s identity.

There are a number of ways you can get proof that your new love is being real with you.

Ask them to video call you over Skype or Facetime. This will give you the chance to see if they look like their profile picture and allow you to make sure you get a good feeling about them before meeting them in real life. Often times it is best in these situations to trust your gut instincts. This is a practical tip that can help you protect yourself both online and offline!

Another way you can verify their identity is by asking them to send a picture doing a specific action or holding something. This can be a fun way to make sure someone is real – think of something easy and creative (e.g. ask them to take a selfie eating ice cream while wearing funky sunglasses).

4. Look out for red flags

catfishing red flag
If there is nothing on the horizon but red flags, you might be dealing with a catfish.

If you’ve already done your research, examined their photos and asked for evidence then the last step in making sure you’re not dating a catfish is looking for red flags. Red flags to watch out for include:

  • Your match asks you for money, especially if they have an emotional backstory.
  • Your match becomes really serious with you really quickly.
  • Your match won’t reveal much about themselves.
  • Your match asks for nudes or other personal/intimate details.
  • Your match makes you feel guilty when you ask for evidence that they are real.

Catfishing and other romance scams are a reality that must be faced in online dating. But this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t look for love online. With Valentine’s Day around the corner, there’s bound to be catfish swimming in the sea of your potential love matches.  Instead of falling for an internet fraudster, use the REAL method to reel yourself in catch!

Sources:

The Guardian: How to catch a catfisher

eHarmony: How to Avoid Being ‘Catfished’

ABC News article: ‘Catfish’ Stars Nev Schulman, Max Joseph’s Advice for Online Dating

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