The saying, “There are many fish in the sea” is often used to describe the search for that special someone. If you are using the internet to search for love, you are at risk for catching a “catfish” who is lying in wait – and just outright lying.
“Catfish” is slang for a person who creates a fake identity with social media and uses it to defraud someone in a deceitful relationship. “Catfish” may have different reasons for their actions. Some crave the attention, some do it as a prank, some feel uncomfortable with who they are and want to try out a new persona. However, the most heinous type is focused on taking your money.
The Better Business Bureau Serving Snake River recently had it’s own case with a catfish seeking money for her business. Football player, Manti Te’o, was also recently a victim of a high-profile catfishing story.
What are some steps you can take to protect yourself?
Meet Face to Face Online. If your new romance is not able to meet via Skype, Facetime or other visual means, this could be a red flag. Be suspicious if you are never able to have a face to face meeting.
Talk to Them. Although a conversation is no guarantee that you aren’t being scammed, you should be suspicious if the person claims they do not own any sort of phone or have access to a pay phone.
Don’t be Fooled by Photos. Although some catfish may use their own picture on their profile, many do not and will lift images from abandoned MySpace accounts or pages of other people in order to hide their true identity or gender. Using online services like TinEye or Google’s “Search by Image” feature, you can upload any photos you have of your online love interest and search the internet for any matches.
Google the Name. Everyone has a “social shadow,” you should be able to find out some information about the person simply by googling their name. If your new love has a common name, try a combination of city, age, high school, or workplace terms to see what hits, if any turn up. No “social shadow” could be a red flag.
Don’t Send Money. Are they asking for cash? Never transfer money to someone you just met online. Business ventures, cellphone bills, hospital bills for themselves or a loved one, airfare, and car money are common requests. If they ask you to pay for a trip to see you, politely decline.
(Written by Sue McConnell and Sara Jennings)