‘Catfishing’ is a commonly used word around social media these days, but what does it mean?
In simple terms, catfishing is when someone creates a fake profile on social media sites, such as Facebook or Tinder, intending to deceive someone and lure them into a relationship and/or try to extract money or personal information from the victim. These profiles deliberately set out to impress unsuspecting victims, with the account holder not being who they say they are.
Items posted on such bogus profiles may include:
Fake profile pictures and albums (link)
Exaggerated lifestyles and stories
These profiles appear frequently on dating apps, such as the aforementioned Tinder, but are not limited solely to dating sites. Social media platforms are ideal places for someone to hide behind a façade. The victims of such deception include not only those who are unwittingly misled by the fake profile/person but those who have had their identities stolen to create such a profile then used for malicious intent.
Therefore, with that in mind, how would you spot such a profile?
There are many behaviours associated with catfishing but not all points below may apply.
The hoaxer will not use video call etc since they don’t look at all like their profile picture and quite likely will avoid having to meet in person.
Check spelling and grammar if they claim to be from your country.
They may ask for money, combined with a sob story such as illness.
It becomes romantic very quickly.
They have very few or no Facebook friends.
And finally, if it seems too good to be true, trust your instinct.
Although catfish rarely want to meet up, there are a few that do. Meeting a stranger from the internet could be very risky. It may end in harm, mental or physical abuse, kidnap or blackmail. Use your common sense and stay safe.
Unfortunately, such practices are not yet illegal in the UK, but there are many campaigns to change this.
All things considered, the one positive of catfishing is that it can be used by undercover police, assuming a minor's identity. This can result in the apprehension of dangerous paedophiles or grooming gangs.
Unknowing victims will fall in love with women or men they meet online – with no idea the person behind the screen is someone completely different.
Catfishers use the accounts to give off a persona they wish they had – with plenty of friends, photos and attractive qualities.