Catfishing is when a person pretends to be someone else, usually on a fake social media account. Someone who is catfishing targets a specific person usually, and the person who does it can have many motivations. Catfishing on social media may be due to the victim being willing to give money to the fake profile, troll a person, expose them, and so on.
While creating a false identity online has been around since the Internet, the term catfishing was popularized in 2010 due to the documentary Catfish, which involved a 40-year-old housewife pretending to be an 18-year-old. The term’s origins are due to the myth that catfish were shipped alongside cod to keep them active.
What Happens During Catfishing?
While each catfish story is different, it does follow a similar formula. The catfisher creates a fake persona, usually via a catfish account. This account may use another person’s photos and claim they belong to the catfisher.
Because other photos are easily traceable, many catfishers turn to AI-generated images or pictures of them using a filter. The catfisher then begins a relationship with another person. This fake relationship tends to have an end goal. For example, the catfisher may convince the person to give them money or personal details such as nude photos.
Why Does Catfishing Happen?
You may wonder why people create fake online identities. Let’s go into detail about several common reasons.
Financial Gain and Scams
Catfishing on social media is usually due to scamming. People create fake online personas to seduce or guilt a person into giving them money, then disappear once that happens. Alternatively, another scam may be involved, such as having a victim click on a deceptive link that hacks their account.
Another reason a catfisher wants to catfish a person is to give them sensitive information, such as nudes or private details, to blackmail them. This is similar to the previous reason, but there may be more involved than just money.
Someone may create fake accounts to bully someone else while not revealing the bully’s identity. Sometimes, the catfisher may act nice at first but then stab the victim in the back once they believe they made a friend. Often, this is a person the victim knows, but it can also be random online users.
Some people may create catfish accounts because they want to expose someone. For example, if you suspect your spouse is cheating, you may make a fake social media account to seduce them and expose them as the cheater they are.
A person may be catfishing to fulfill their fantasies. For example, they may have a sexual fantasy and enact it with another person online while pretending to be someone else. In some cases, these catfishers can be less harmful than others, but it’s still a move that many may dislike.
Many online predators enter teen spaces or add teens on social media using fake accounts that usually pretend to be someone their age. Because of this, parents should be mindful of who their teens talk to, even if they claim to be around their child’s age.
How Are Kids Especially Vulnerable to Catfishing?
If you want to keep kids safe online, you need to beware of catfishing on social media.
During childhood and adolescence, a person is more susceptible to manipulation, especially from someone who appears to be their own age. Catfishers take advantage of this fact by creating catfish teens.
Another reason teenagers can be vulnerable is because of how emotional this life period is. If a teen just broke up with someone, fell out with their friends, or is in another challenging situation, they may seek refuge in online spaces. There, they can run into a catfisher.
Anyone of any age can fall victim to a catfisher (according to catfishing on social media statistics, women over 40 are most likely to be victims). Still, as a parent, your child’s digital safety is a priority.
7 Signs to Spot an Online Catfish Attempt
Fake Profile Pictures of Photos Look Too Professional
A catfisher tends to use fake profile pictures. If they’re AI-generated, perhaps you notice something odd with the face structure or the hands. Also, the photos tend not to be selfies or amateur photos but professional headshots.
Of course, there are exceptions to this rule, and some catfishers use a variety of photos. You can reverse image search the picture if you’re not sure. However, image search sometimes does not work, so beware.
Sparse Social Media Account
Not everyone updates their Facebook, but a catfisher’s account will not have many details beyond their fake photos or them promoting a suspicious link. This could be a sign of a catfisher unless they’re just starting the account and are still adding new things to it.
Avoidance of Video Chat
A catfisher will come up with many excuses as to why they can only DM you, such as their broken camera, anxiety, etc. Of course, the real reason is that they look like nothing they claim. Some who can put on a good voice may call you to add more authenticity than just text messaging, so beware.
The Relationship Is Going Too Fast
Some people live on the fast line but take a step back if you notice how quickly your relationship goes from talking to flirting to asking for nudes. This doesn’t necessarily mean the person is a catfisher, but you should ask them if they can take things slower. If they don’t listen, this is a major red flag.
They Are Too Perfect
The saying goes that if it’s too good to be true, it probably is. This applies to catfishing as well. Be skeptical, especially if they’re asking for favors from you. Also, some catfishers may be people who know your interests and have created the perfect profile that checks all your boxes.
Little Friends or Followers
A catfisher tends only to have a few friends or followers on social media, and it’s usually the people they are trying to victimize. In addition, you probably have no mutual friends with them, so keep that in mind.
Sob Stories with Requests for Money
Catfishers tend to prey on the goodwill of people. For example, the catfisher may claim they’re about to be evicted and have no money to pay rent or claim they have medical bills. Many can weave a good story, even supplying photos of fake bills as evidence. We understand wanting to help out people, but if the account seems fake, don’t feel bad not giving them money.
Catfishing Website Apps Used by Scammers
Instagram is a social media catfish haven with its many filters and model culture. People will pretend to be models, even uploading photos. If you’re speaking to a hot Instagram model, ensure it’s not a catfish.
Tinder is an app where many people go for a relationship. Some Tinder users are desperate, so if someone flirts with them, they may let their guard down. If the date is suddenly asking for travel money, beware.
Facebook is a website that prides itself on people using their real names. However, it’s easy for someone to create a fake account. Also, Facebook is home to many women over 40, who are the most likely to be catfishing victims. One way to avoid this is to adjust your privacy settings so that only people with mutual friends can add you.
Open Chat Apps
Some apps bring back the old-school chatroom, where many people claim they’re someone they’re not. If you’re chatting with someone, being skeptical is always intelligent with a chat app or any other social media catfish targets.
How to Protect Your Kids from Being Catfished
If you have children, you may worry about them becoming catfishing victims. Here are some ways you can fight back.
Talk to Them About Online Strangers
Sometimes, all you need is to talk. Explain to your kids that many people online aren’t what they seem. Explain that while making friends online is normal and can be good, your child should be skeptical of who they are talking to and never give any personal information or do anything that makes them uncomfortable.
Install a Parental Control App to Keep the Finger on the Pulse of Activities
Another way parents can fight back against catfishing on social media is through parental control apps. Most devices have built-in parental controls to restrict particular apps and websites. Besides that, parents can also use spy apps to see what their kids are up to.
These apps can send real-time screenshots and data from your child’s conversations. If you suspect your child is talking to someone who’s not who they seem, parental control apps can be a valuable tool for keeping your children safe.
Final Words About Catfishing
It’s common knowledge that people lie on the Internet. However, catfishing is a bigger problem than ever before. If a person is giving off red flags, you should avoid them, as they may be trying to scam you. In addition, you should keep your kids safe by educating them about the potential dangers of catfishing.
We hope this post was informative and you will keep yourself and your children safe. If you pay attention to all the dangers that await the child online in time, then you can prevent risks. This does not mean that you need to continuously monitor the online activities of your child; just keep your hand on the pulse, especially since modern technology allows it to be done easily.
Is catfishing a crime?
Pretending to be someone else on the Internet is not a crime. However, the activities of catfishers can be illegal. For example, asking a minor for nudes and receiving them is definitely a crime. In some cases, scamming a person or cyberbullying them can be illegal. It also depends on the laws in your area.
How to spot a catfisher?
Most catfish profiles will need more information, use overly professional photos or look fake. In addition, if the person seems too good to be true, they may be a catfisher. Sometimes, a catfisher can avoid most red flags; your best bet is to trust your gut.
What if my kid is being catfished?
First, you should have a talk with your child about catfishing. Explain how many are falling victim to it and how the child should not give away any personal information. If you’re that suspecting your child is a victim of catfishing on social media, install uMobix and react promptly.