With one in five relationships beginning on an online dating site — and many more via social networks, mobile apps and online games — it’s important to educate yourself on potential red flags. It’s also crucial to apprise yourself of online dating safety practices and keep enough emotional distance until you meet the person face-to-face.
While a lot of these safety practices may seem obvious, even some of the smartest people can lose sight of their common sense when they’re being reeled in by a catfish: an online impostor who tries to win your attention, your love, and even possibly your money by creating an elaborate scheme.
Reduce your chances of falling for online dating scams by taking a look at our tips which will help prevent you from getting caught by emotional scammers.
How to Spot a Catfish Online
If you want to know how to spot a catfish online, remember the following tips the next time you chat with your online friend.
- They seem to good to be true. Be wary if a person seems too good to be true, because they quite possibly might be. People who catfish others typically make up a completely fake like and are often extravagant with their life history.
- They refuse to talk on the phone or pretend they don’t know what Skype is. If they’re savvy enough to be online, then they should know what Skype is. It’s much easier to pretend to be someone else when all communication happens online or via text. It becomes a bit more difficult when communication happens via phone. Catfish know this so they tend to come up with excuses in an attempt to avoid any medium that actually requires you to hear their voice.
- They have a job that constantly has them on the move, so they’re never near by. A common tactic of catfish when coming up with excuses as to why they can’t see you is to claim that they’re traveling due to work or some other reason. This helps these fakers put off a meeting with you, while still being able to string you along for the ride. Be especially careful if the person you’re talking to tells you that their work has them travel to countries like Africa or the Middle East. If they start asking for money (excuses range from being injured in a hospital to being robbed), you can be sure that it’s a scam.
- Their profile is littered with enough bad grammar that it would give an English teacher nightmares. Scammers from Africa, Asia and other foreign lands will claim to be born and raised in the United States, but really are stationed in their home countries with English being their second language. If they’re using English like a non-native speaker, be aware that the person you’re speaking to may potentially be a catfish. Don’t be afraid to ask additional questions to ensure that the person you’re speaking with is who they actually say they are before pursuing a relationship with them.
- They’re getting serious very quickly. If they say that things are getting serious after only a short amount of time, you might have just met a catfish. Don’t be so quick to attribute the fact that someone professes their love for you right away to your incredible charm. Catfish often declare they have met their One True Love only hours after having met online. Keep your ego in check and make sure this person isn’t just trying to butter you up.
- They look like they could be a model. While there are many attractive people using online dating sites, do keep in mind that most catfish want to look appealing so they’ll use pictures of extremely attractive people. This isn’t a sign on its own that you’re dealing with a catfish, but if it’s coupled with anything else on the list, you should definitely be wary.
- They ask for cash. This is huge red flag. While there are definitely catfish who do what they do for the attention (just watch the show Catfish on MTV), there are many more who use love struck people online as their personal ATM. If the person you’re speaking with always has a sob story about how they could use some cash or if they ask you to send money to someone else for any reason, chances are that you’re dealing with a scammer.
Prevent Yourself From Being Catfished
The most benign case of dealing with a catfish is that you’ve just wasted time as the person you’ve been dealing with was just looking for an elaborate attempt to escape reality, and create a new world for themselves. Worst case scenario, however is that the experience can be extremely painful and even lead to financial ruin.
Being tricked into falling in love with a fictitious person person can be cruel and lead to heart break. Even worse, it’s possible that you become so entangled in this person’s lies, that they end up draining your bank account.
Below are several measures you can take to help prevent yourself from being catfished.
- Perform a reverse image search on the potential catfish using a site like TinEye to see if any of the pictures in their profile or any that they sent have been used elsewhere.
- Trust your gut and be smart. Fake social media accounts will typically have extremely low friend counts, very little interaction between friends, and very generic photos.
- Ask to use a video chat service like Skype so that you can see the person that you’re talking.
- Perform an instant background check to get data that might be hard to find on your own. With a background check, you can get court records, birth certificates, marriage licenses, real estate information, social media profiles and so much more to help ensure that the person you’re speaking to is legit.
Remember, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. It’s not fun to be fooled by a catfish, so if you begin to feel any hesitancy or feelings of discomfort, then don’t be afraid to investigate the person more or to just drop them completely. There’s no need to talk yourself into investing in a relationship with someone you haven’t met in person.