The word Catfishing entered the mainstream in 2010 and it's become commonplace to hear a story about someone getting catfished-tricked onto an online romance or money scam. There’s an entire show based on the topic. The 2010 movie, Catfish, is a scary take on a romance that began on Facebook. In the documentary, director Nev Schulman finally meets a woman with whom he’s carried on a long-term online relationship. She claimed she was gorgeous, young, and single, but he eventually finds out she is 40-something and very married.
The woman’s husband, Vince Pierce, inspired the word, catfish, with the following tale:
“They used to tank cod from Alaska all the way to China. They’d keep them in vats in the ship. By the time the codfish reached China, the flesh was mush and tasteless. So this guy came up with the idea that if you put these cods in these big vats, put some catfish in with them and the catfish will keep the cod agile. And there are those people who are catfish in life. And they keep you on your toes. They keep you guessing, they keep you thinking, they keep you fresh.”
So who do these people target? And why?
Well, sometimes they are bored and want to mess with someone. Others, they are looking for money. And there’s everything in between.
One source who works closely with the MTV show tells Personal Space, "it's the saddest group of humanity I've ever seen."
"You have no idea what's going on in the rest of the country," he says. "I get depressed every time we find someone it's happened to. They usually aren't that smart, and they always have an online addiction."
Dr. Phil, who has covered the topic extensively, has specific red flags to look for in people that are doing the catfishing.
“If anyone says they are a model, watch out. It means that they are recognized as a very attractive person,” he says. “If the person you are talking to says they are a model, but also has another amazing career, he or she may be too good to be true. Models are generally very busy and travel a lot. Also, it’s easy enough for a scam artist to access model photos online and post as their own.”
Look out for Facebook clues.
“If a person’s profile has fewer than 100 friends, and more specifically, if there are photos of the person with other people but the other people aren’t tagged, be cautious. These may be pictures taken off an unsuspecting person’s profile,” he says.
The way they avoid meeting up for so long is to make up excuses—horrible ones, so you give them sympathy. And don’t ask a lot of questions.
“We see car accidents, deaths in the family and cancer a lot in catfish scams. This is very common because the best way to avoid meeting up is by having a traumatic experience. It will make the other person say, ‘Oh, my God, don’t worry about meeting with me now. I will just wait until you are better.’ This is a way of tugging at your heartstrings and making you feel guilty.”
If they don’t send pictures in this day and age, red flag. Who doesn’t have pictures of themselves? If they won’t FaceTime you either, watch out. They are likely hiding their appearance for a reason.
So, who is getting catfishes? Unfortunately, many elderly people do. Many lonely people looking for love too. People who aren’t computer savvy. People who fell for an elaborate profile—which turned out to be fake.
Research has shown that as people have increasingly been online more, they are seeking validation they are not getting in their real life. Online relationships allow us to be who we want to be without the bother of how we actually are in the real world.
Start with a Google search. The person’s name should pull up former and current jobs, photos, Facebook, and social media accounts. If they look fake, trust your gut. Some people simply want to believe their true love has randomly found them.
Don’t get catfished.
If some random person, who happens to be incredibly good looking but can’t show you their face, contacts you out of the blue, beware. If they don’t call you, or contact you wit their voice in any way, beware. When you threaten to stop talking to them, they make plans, then cancel, be careful. If they won’t tell you their actual home address. The person should have a normal Facebook profile, and numerous ways to get in touch, including a phone number to FaceTime. And don’t forget to reverse image search on Google. The real person behind the image will come up.
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