There can be all sorts of reasons why people become Catfish online [create fake profiles], but two I’ve read of this week are: one woman who did it to fool her employers and a man who did it to kill his girlfriend, by posing as an online stalker before he killed her.
One woman did it to humiliate her boyfriend and one man created 130 fake Facebook accounts to harass his sixteen year old girl friend. See link at end of article. **
While to many it can seem pretty harmless creating fake profiles and becoming a ‘Catfish’, and of course it can be just someone with low self esteem trying to live out a fantasy life online, to the victims it can cause pain and upset, even death in rare cases.
Other reasons I’ve heard of why people become Catfish is to check up on their partners or previous partners, to try to lure them to see if they take the bait or just to nose around on their Facebook page as someone else, if the person has blocked them. Sometimes they do it to appear anonymous on Facebook so that people they know won’t recognise them.
It’s a minefield as there are estimated to be around 83 million fake Facebook accounts. The best thing you can do as a social network user is to protect yourself by looking for the signs that someone is a fake. If you answer YES to any of these questions about your Facebook friend, then it should hold up a red flag:
1. Does your FB friend’s profile picture look too good to be true? Quite often they look like models or celebrities or just extremely attractive.
2. Do they have few photographs and none taken with friends and/or family?
3. Is there no tagging of photographs by themselves or friends?
4. Does the information they say about themselves sound too good to be true? For example, they are in the modelling business, a fashion designer, etc.
5. Do they have only a few friends listed on their page?
6. Are there few posts on their wall and lack of comments by friends?
7. Do you just ‘have a feeling’ that somehow they are too good to be true?
8. Are they always making excuses why you can’t see them on webcam or get to meet them?
9. Have you been asked for money by the suspect Catfish? If so, it could be a Nigerian Scammer behind that profile pic or some other con artist.
10. Has this person declared undying love or got keen far too soon? Another red flag.
Protect yourself by:
1. Dragging and dropping their ‘perfect image’ into Google image search, it might throw up photographs of that image elsewhere online and you might find they are posing as someone else to others.
2. If you are arranging to meet up, ensure you talk to them on webcam first so you can see they are the person in the photograph, or failing that, get them to take a photograph of themselves holding up that day’s newspaper clearly showing the date or a card with your name on it. Of course, if they are the person they say they are, it still doesn’t mean they’re not trying to con you in some way!
3. Google their full name. If they are supposed to be a successful model, designer or other, their name should show up somewhere online, if it doesn’t, see it as a probable red flag.
4. You can also contact a couple of their Facebook friends to ask what they know about the person, although you may need to be careful how you set about doing this. Chances are they might not know them either or it could be the suspected Catfish has other profiles they’ve added as friends.
5. Often if a person is a Catfish they will keep making excuses why they can’t send you a photograph, appear on webcam or keep breaking potential dates and they often have elaborate excuses, such as they were involved in a car accident, their parent was suddenly taken ill, so see anything like that as a potential red flag.
6. There are various websites where you can discover a person’s location from their email address or email header info. Here’s one:
7. It’s possible to waste a lot of time with a Catfish online as they keep dangling that proverbial carrot, so give yourself a time limit and think if so and so hasn’t proved him or herself by such and such a date, they’re not worth bothering with. With today’s technology it’s not that difficult or expensive for someone to get a webcam or send a photograph to show they are the person on their profile pic. If they can’t do that, it’s the biggest red flag of all!
Remember, if something sounds too good to be true, then it probably is!