At this point, everyone knows what catfishing is. They know it’s a real thing, and they know it really does happen to people. What most people don’t seem to get is that catfishing is actually something that could happen to them. After all, not every catfish is laughably obvious. Even smart, woke daters can fall victim to a catfish that’s slick enough and really knows what they’re doing, so it’s important to know what to look for. Here’s how to go about making sure it doesn’t happen to you.
Understand Why Catfish Do What They Do
Catfishing is about more than just trivial lies almost anyone might be tempted to tell. After all, who hasn’t been tempted to fudge the truth when it comes to their age, their weight, their hairline, or their financial situation? Truly dedicated catfish can create identities and faux lives that are so detailed, that they really do seem real.
Some do it deliberately to get attention, money, or nudes out of someone else. Others do it for deeper, more personal reasons that are harder to put a finger on. They invent entirely fake realities and move into them so thoroughly, even they believe in what they’re saying after a while. Catfishing serves as an escape from their own existence just as much as it does a way to get something they want from someone else.
Recognize and Acknowledge Red Flags
Catfish are nothing if not full of excuses. Some of them are really obvious and easy to see through, but beware. Experienced catfish are generally pretty good at figuring out what a particular person is likely to believe if they float it out there just right. Common red flags to look out for include the following:
- Refusal to talk on the phone and/or over Skype or unlikely excuses not to (e.g. “my camera is broken”).
- Always has a ready excuse not to meet up in person, even if they otherwise seem interested and live nearby.
- Fishy pictures (e.g. every shot is taken from far away, they only send body shots, or their pictures just plain look too perfect to be real).
- Information about them doesn’t gel with the facts (e.g. claims to have an Ivy League degree, but is unemployed).
And let’s not forget the most important red flag – a terrible suspicion in your gut that something’s just not right with the person. If your instincts are screaming at you to run the other way, you probably should.
Always Do Your Homework
We’re officially two decades into the 21st century and counting at this point, so you’ve got an entire world full of information at your fingertips. Plus, everyone who’s anyone has some sort of online presence to speak of, so it’s relatively easy to dig up at least a little bit of information on almost anyone.
Start by Googling the person’s name and cross-checking it with any other information you might have about the person, like where they live or where they’ve told you they work. If the person’s real, your searches are bound to point you toward a Twitter profile, a LinkedIn presence, a couple of Pinterest boards, or anything else along those lines. If they have zero online presence (despite being comfortable enough with the internet to chat up potential love interests), something’s wrong.
Catch Them Off Guard
Still not entirely sure whether the person you’re talking to is a fake or not? Try doing something that wouldn’t phase someone who is who they say they are, but would cause a catfish to respond with a bunch of excuses. Call the person while you’re chatting online to see whether or not they pick up the phone. Alternatively, ask them to send you a photo of them doing something really specific – like posing with an unusual item they’ve said they have in their home or holding something you’ve sent them.
You should also ask any suspected catfish plenty of questions – what they’re into, who they hang out with offline, what they do for a living, and so forth. Pay close attention to the answers, especially over time. Catfish often forget exact details regarding the lies they tell, so you’ll likely spot a few inconsistencies after a while. Alternatively, you could be dealing with a particularly uncreative catfish who gives only vague, generic responses. Really, any answers that sound fishy or don’t quite add up are pretty solid signs you’re being catfished.
Always be careful when dealing with suspected catfish online. Don’t give out any information about yourself or your life that you wouldn’t share with someone you met on the street, and never send anyone you don’t know money or financial information over the internet. At the end of the day, there really are plenty of fish in the sea, so you’re better off erring on the side of caution and not giving anyone suspicious your time.