Following the Manti Te’o case, the danger of being ‘catfished’ is something one has to consciously guard against whilst on social media - especially w
Following the Manti Te’o case, the danger of being ‘catfished’ is something one has to consciously guard against whilst on social media – especially where dating apps are concerned. Although these apps can be fun and socially rewarding, the resulting harm from this form of cyberbullying can be immense. For most, the emotional stress and financial loss can lead to suffering depression at the very least.
Often, the ‘fisher’ isn’t only looking to falsely establish a romantic relationship or con you out of your money, as identity theft is also another worrying issue to consider. The consequences of such a scenario can be a lot more complicated. For instance, the victim could be prosecuted for crimes committed by someone else using their identity or even incur crippling debt. However, social media platforms are here to stay, and can even be very rewarding – both socially and professionally. Therefore, it’s prudent to follow these tried and trusted methods to avoid becoming a victim. So, here are some ways in which you can avoid being ‘catfished’.
Conduct extensive research
Once you begin conversing with someone on social media, it’s important to run a check on them. Begin with a simple Google search to see if they are who they claim to be. Of course, the information you’ll find here might not be enough to confirm this either way, but it could raise some red flags. Next, save their profile picture or just copy the link to it and go to images.google.com. Here, you can enter said link in the relevant search box; alternatively, if you’ve saved the image on your computer, you will be able to upload it from there. After then running a search, you might find that the image being used across multiple profiles, in which case you could have a ‘catfisher’ on your hands.
It might seem unnerving, to begin with, but it’s better to protect yourself first and foremost. If there are any red flags raised during your initial search, you could perform a full background check – especially if you’re becoming emotionally invested in this particular person. This might involve some financial expenditure, but it’s a better option for you than waiting to sue after falling victim to catfishing.
Comb through their account
If the person in question has only 20 friends or so on Facebook, this might be an indication they are using a false identity. Often, such people create fake accounts and accumulate ‘friends’, although this process can be tedious, hence the suspiciously low friend count. Also, when you take time to comb through their profiles, you’ll almost certainly find tell-tale signs that will give them away – especially if you’ve been on that particular website for a while (whether a social media platform or dating site).
Common giveaways include:
- Profile with little or no activity: social media is primarily about interaction, so when this is lacking, it is considered a potential sign of fraud.
- Their profile photo looks like a stock photo.
- Thin biography, lacking any real detail.
- Generally, their listed experiences just don’t add up.
Always video-call them
Since it’s become obvious that pictures alone aren’t reliable, always make it a rule to video call them. Whilst doing so, you should begin by analysing their response to your video call request. A genuine person would likely jump at the idea of seeing you (even if it is merely via a video call). However, a scammer will make up many excuses to avoid making such a call. Be sure to ask a couple of times before reaching any conclusion, however, as some excuses might just be genuine. However, although a video call can give provide a general perception, it doesn’t necessarily answer the question in full, because some dishonest individuals can always ways to circumnavigate this.
Never give out any personal information
No matter how interesting your correspondence with this person is, never give out any personal information. Sometimes, they might request pictures from you to build a back story, which would allow them to escape punishment should you ever report them. For example, over the course of your conversations, they could ask for your drivers’ license, information about your parents, bank details, and so on. These are often used to hack your account (including your bank accounts) and sometimes even steal your identity. Therefore, you must strive to never disclose any personal information, including your home address or birthday.
Tell your friends
While you might want to keep your budding online relationship secret from your friends before you’re sure of things, you should still make them aware of the situation – especially if you met this person online. This works best when you’ve already noticed certain red flags when conversing with them. Your friends will be best placed to objectively consider the information you’ve gathered about this person.
Never give money
If a person is trying to ‘catfish’ you, the subject of money will nearly always crop up. As a general rule, never give them money – especially if they ask you to wire it via Western Union. Moneygram also advises never to send money to someone you don’t know. Although there are resources via which you can attempt to reclaim your money, the truth is that it is hardly ever recovered. Therefore, always stay in control when talking with someone you’ve met online. Try to own the majority of decisions made in such a relationship; this includes things like money, personal information, and how they can get in touch with you.
There are many warning signs of ‘catfishing’ and you’ll need to be wary of them all. If you can’t recognise all of them at first, at least consult this list of rules to keep yourself safe from any heartbreak. If your online friend isn’t as enthusiastic about meeting, talking or seeing you on Facetime or Skype, they are more than likely hoping to defraud you. So, follow these simple steps to avoid any potential mishaps.