These days, online dating is becoming an increasingly more common way to meet new people. A recent study found that online dating is now the second most popular way for people to meet potential partners, after meeting through mutual friends. With the prevalence of online dating, however, comes a new opportunity for criminals and scammers to strike. One common phenomenon that has grown out of the increase in online dating is catfishing.

What is catfishing?

The term “catfishing” was coined from the 2010 documentary “Catfish.” The documentary follows filmmaker Nev Schulman as he meets and falls in love with a woman online who is not who she claims to be. He later created a reality show that investigates cases of catfishing, which has come to mean when someone pretends to be someone who they are not online for nefarious purposes. Catfishing has become more prevalent over the years, and more difficult to catch as scammers become better at pretending to be who they aren’t.

What is the harm of being catfished?

Not only can being catfished be emotionally damaging, it can have some serious consequences, including:

  • Identity theft
  • Credit card theft
  • Blackmail
  • Public humiliation
  • Extortion
  • Fraud
  • Physical violence

How do I know if I am being catfished?

If you have recently made a new online friend and are starting to notice that something is not quite right, there is a good chance that you are being catfished.

Red Flags on Their Social Media Profile

  • They have either very few or very many followers
  • You have no mutual friends
  • Their photos make them look like a model, i.e. they are physically attractive and the photos look professionally taken
  • Most or all of their photos are of only them; they don’t have many photos of friends
  • They do not interact with anyone, or only with the same few people

Red Flags From Your Interactions

  • They confess strong feelings for you very early on
  • They won’t call you or are hesitant to talk on the phone
  • They always have a reason why they can’t video chat
  • They arrange to meet with you or video chat but never show up
  • They make extreme promises
  • They ask you to be exclusive despite never meeting in person
  • When you confront them, they respond angrily
  • You have caught them in lies before

Other Red Flags

  • It seems too good to be true (it usually is)
  • You have a feeling that something is just not quite right
  • Your friends are suspicious of this person
  • They ask you for money
  • They are going through some kind of tough time and need your help
  • They have no online presence besides their profile
  • They are vague about the details of their life, or they don’t add up

What do I do if I suspect I am being catfished?

First, compile all of the information about the person that you can. Then, look at their profile for any inconsistencies or red flags. While it is possible to do some basic investigating into this person yourself, this information is usually convoluted and doesn’t lead to any concrete answers. A private investigator will be able to shed greater light on the situation because we have access to databases of information not available to the public. We can conduct a private investigation that will help you determine for certain whether or not this person is who they say they are, and give you the closure you need to move on.

If you suspect you are a victim of catfishing, contact McCabe Associates for our private investigation services. We can help you gain the critical information you need to avoid further emotional, financial, or physical harm. Call us today.