Tired of having his wife scroll through his Instagram newsfeed, my husband created an account through an app found on my phone. Instantly, I was amazed to find not just a great number of friends, but cousins spanning in age from 14 to 75. Despite feeling late to an already established gathering, I instantly loved this “new” social media forum devised around pictures. The following day I began receiving “friend requests,” predominately from men in the military; yet, my husband nor I knew them. Deleting the request was a simple action; yet, the requests continued. The men were usually featured in limited posts, one or two pictures with or without a young child present, indicating they, too, were new to the site, single with children, and were either in the military or located somewhere distant, such as Europe or the islands. Then, the strangers began leaving an enticement for friendship, a compliment. Millions of people, out of kindness, respond to strangers or even acquaintances, and become victims of what is termed “catphishing.”
What is Catphishing?
The title leads us to believe it has a connection with a sly creature fishing for trouble. Yes, a sly creature indeed fabricates a false identity in hopes of luring someone into an emotional or romantic relationship for the purpose of a financial gain. The end result has been public humiliation, fraud, or used by the police or investigators to catch a criminal.
An Unknown Game that Can Include You
This warning is not just to educate you into the enticements of a catphisher through a sweetheart scam. The game escalates when your phone and identity is used to lure an acquaintance into a false net. One example of fraud occurred to a woman that was known to the catphisher. He used her name and picture to activate several social media and dating sites. It is hard to catch the criminal unless all users are aware of the warning signs.
Similar to any relationship, it takes time to develop a feeling of trust; yet, there will be indicators, which should make an online user feel compelled to either check for authenticity, or let go of the bait and swim away fast….
- The person will appear “model quality” attractive, successful, and live an extravagant lifestyle.
Tip: Compare the biography and description with the picture to determine if all the height and features match. If the photos are professional in quality, perform a picture search online. You may discover who the catphisher is pretending to be.
Tip: Play an identity game. Ask your online friend to take a picture of themselves holding a card with a phrase of your choosing. You’ll know immediately if he or she is authentic.
- The catphisher will hesitate to use the phone and will create excuses against using Skype. They will create a reason to only communicate through email or text. If plans are arranged to meet in person, the scammer will cancel at the last-minute due to a crisis.
Tip: Pay close attention to the spelling of words and usage of phrases. Asking a previous question may determine if your “new” online friend is real.
Tip: Scammers usually share very little about themselves, but ask a lot of questions. Make it a priority to ask questions, and be wary of answering with details.
- Many scammers have jobs, which take them overseas, or they need to travel often. Be wary of a sudden death in the family or a crisis pertaining to their child. Some emotional situation will lead up to a request for money.
How to Protect Yourself
One question to ask is how many friends on my personal social media site do I know well, and trust? Of the potential 500 friends, it is okay to limit your site to true friends, and set your settings to “friends only.” Settings will also help you close the loopholes, which can offer entry from outsiders. One of the key steps is to frequently conduct a name or reverse image search to determine if anyone has used your photo, or name, without permission.
Social media can be an enjoyable exchange of friendship, and expanding relationships; yet, scammers are present. Be constantly vigilant, and do not be afraid to investigate and ask questions, talk openly to your friends, and, most importantly, let go of a bad hook!