The world of online dating offers plenty of wonderful opportunities to meet compatible people. However, it also leaves you vulnerable to the phenomenon of “catfishing.” The term (which comes from a remarkable 2010 documentary and a compelling MTV show) refers to individuals who create elaborate false identities, luring unsuspecting victims into fraudulent online relationships that sometimes last for years. It’s heartbreaking and alarming to think that the gorgeous guy or girl you’re talking to may be nothing more than mirage projected by someone unstable or sadistic, but don’t let that put you off online dating. Here’s what you need to know about how to avoid being catfished.
Some people who catfish are using their false online identity to do something akin to living out their dream lives. As a result, it’s smart to look out for ridiculous life stories that just don’t seem realistic. Are you talking to a supermodel, a powerful member of government or an individual with a 100 page CV of personal tragedies? If so, strongly consider the possibility that you are being duped.
Look for evasive attitudes
Be very wary if you notice that someone is unwilling to provide more than just a few photos of themselves or is constantly evading any attempt to meet in person. Even if you are not being catfished, someone who tries to avoid a personal meeting will almost definitely have something else to hide (often a spouse).
Do your research
Search around to see if this person’s alleged identity seems legitimate. For example, you should be able to find a departmental profile of someone who claims to be a college professor. It’s also worth browsing through the images that come up when you enter the person’s name and location. While nothing is foolproof, it is particularly useful if your contact will happily connect with you using Facebook or another social networking site where you can see them regularly interact with a large number of people who appear to verify their story.
Ask for proof
Given the increasing awareness of catfishing, you should be able to ask people on online dating sites to prove their identity without hurting their feelings. You can explain that you’ve heard bizarre stories and are very cautious about getting to know people without some sort of objective evidence of honesty. For example, it might be a good idea to ask the person to send a photo in which they hold up a piece of paper stating their name and the current date. If you don’t want to be explicit about your need for proof, simply ask for a Skype session with audio and video. While this can only verify their true appearance, it does help to weed out some catfish.
Keep your emotional distance until you meet
Finally, hold off on divulging lots of deeply personal information that a particularly pernicious catfish might use against you or even use for identity theft. Where possible, try to reserve judgment until you meet the individual in person and are more capable of assessing their genuineness.
by Yaro Babiy