As Notre Dame’s star Linebacker Manti Te’o proved, even the big man on campus can fall victim to an Internet dating hoax. With online matchmaking becoming an increasingly popular and acceptable way to fall in love, people must take extra steps to preserve their integrity and in some cases their lives. This proves to be a slippery slope though as meeting the supposed man/woman/alien on the other end too soon could be dangerous and waiting too long could leave you wondering who or what exactly you’re developing an intense bond with. Luckily, there are some online tricks of the trade that a person can use to avoid being catfished* (*Does not apply to real fresh water catfish, they’re on their own)
What Does Catfishing Mean
The actual catfishing description doesn’t really sound like it would apply to online dating but the term derived from a 2010 documentary about a man who was falling in love online. The man’s brother started filming early on in the process, through the stages of giddy first love on to tense suspicions through the culmination of the big reveal. As in many cases of online dating, the man’s beautiful mid 20’s online suitor ended up actually being a bored 40-year old housewife whose real life paled in comparison to the one she had built online. Towards the end of the movie, the husband of the woman stated that when live cod were shipped, they’d become mushy towards the end of their journey but when a catfish was placed in the tank with the cod, they stayed active and full of life. He compares his wife to a catfish whose job is to keep other people active in life.
Catfishing in Online Dating
The social networking site Facebook has become the spawning ground for potential catfishers. Millions of people are on Facebook, each with a varying level of Internet comfort-ability that could be described as remedial at best. When a guy who isn’t familiar with computers or online scams gets a friend request from a supposed gorgeous International model, he’s not going to take the time to conduct a background check, he’s going to hit the ‘accept’ button nineteen times and start bragging to his friends. This is effectively known as casting the bait and it usually doesn’t take long to get a bite.
Why Do People Create Fake Profiles
The motive for creating a fake Internet profile varies on a person to person basis. Some people are questioning their sexuality and develop same sex Internet relationships as a way to create a relationship without facing public scorn. Other people are manipulators who take joy in seeing a person fall in love only to crush them with reality. Some fake profiles are created out of boredom in one’s own life and others are used to solicit money from people. No matter the intention, these fake Internet profiles can be hard to detect to the untrained eye. They often have multiple pictures of the same person and a full background and ‘like’ section filled out. There is also a ripple down of fake profiles created by the same person only to boost the original scams friend count. These ‘fake’ friends then confirm what the Catfish is saying to the bait to form quite an elaborate hoax…definitely not what Al Gore intended when he built the Internet.
Avoid Being Catfished
Whether you look like Tom Brady or Tom Arnold, you should be skeptical if a drop dead gorgeous woman pops in out of the blue to become your friend on Facebook. If you simply want to accept the request to creep out some bikini pictures, do so at your own peril. More than likely though that former model from Europe who has just conveniently moved to your small town is your ex-girlfriend trying to spy on your posts…or a dude.
Check Out Their Background (aka Google, Google, Google)
The first thing you can do to avoid being catfished is to do a Google search of the person’s name, city, parents, employment and any other information they give you. If you find some online stories or other information about the person, jot down the details and be prepared to ask them if they chat with you. Any little slip up on their end could be their downfall so don’t overlook anything you can search on your own. Often times the Catfish will have a dramatic story to try and solicit empathy and although it seems crude, make sure the details check out. If somebody says their twin sisters died in a car wreck or their mother was murdered there is usually something in the online version of their local papers that you can search and confirm..
Inspect Their Facebook Profile
Maybe you’re just falling in love with a narcissist but most people have more than bikini or 6-pack ab pictures in a true Facebook account. Look for pictures with family or ones in which they don’t appear genetically perfect in every way. Also, inspect their Timeline for important life events that occurred past only the last calendar year. Many people have been on Facebook for 3 or more years now and they should have a full profile to ensure it’s not a fake Facebook account. Also, check to make sure it’s not just the same 4 people writing on a person’s Facebook wall as these could be additional fake profiles used to make the ruse look real. If possible, chat with many of your new ‘lovers’ Facebook friends to see if they’ve ever met face to face.
Google Image Search Their Facebook Photos
A Catfish can steal other people’s photos and pass them off as their own but they can’t delete the trace of those pictures from elsewhere on the Internet. Google has an app that will search the web for all similar pictures and you can drag and drop each one from your blind love to see if the pictures are actually registered to an old dead MySpace account or somewhere else on the Internet.
Request Video Proof
Talking on the phone only proves that the person is of the same sex (usually) so if you really want to prove their identity you need to have video proof. A Catfish will claim to be technologically impaired and usually won’t agree to a Skype chat but almost every cell phone has picture capabilities these days. Have the person send you a picture holding that day’s newspaper or with Darth Maul facepaint as per your request.
Some Other Tips To Avoid Being Catfished
- Remember To Be Vigilant – A Catfish will state that they feel you don’t trust them if you constantly want video proof but stick to your guard. Sure you might turn away the woman of your dreams but most people who ‘love’ you won’t have any qualms about a Skype chat.
- Be wary of excuses – If you’ve made arrangements to meet up with somebody but they’re constantly having emergency appendix surgery, you’re probably in the mix of a hoax. These people will keep the ruse up until the absolute end and these excuses buy them months of more time.
- Don’t fall too deep – One of the common themes of most Catfish hoaxes is the almost constant phone calls and texting as well as saying “I Love You” or “Let’s Get Married.” Save these until you confirm their identity…otherwise it’s kind of creepy. Don’t forget that they also might have a stolen identity.
Even though Catfishing is a term popular in the news, remember that finding real love online is possible. Many people have found their souldmates through ‘friends of a friend’ on Facebook and there’s no reason others can’t follow in their footsteps. Even if the person turns out to look different than their photos, people have found that the bond they’ve built through years of communication remains the same. Good Luck.