What is catfishing?
“Catfishing” is a term used to describe when a person pretends to be someone else on the internet in order to build personal or professional relationships. Generally, “catfish” reach out to people over social media appearing to want to start friendships, romantic relationships, or business partnerships. In some cases, this may be done for personal reasons, such as insecurities. In other cases, the motivation is purely financial.
How could it be a scam?
The most common catfishing scam involves romantic relationships. The catfish will usually tell the victim a story about a personal hardship they are facing and either try to get the victim to offer money or directly ask for it. This fraudster may ask for a large amount but they might also try asking for several smaller amounts that build up over time. Expensive gifts, such as electronics or jewelry, may also be requested.
Although romantic relationships are often the first thing that comes to mind, a catfish may also try to trick someone into a business relationship. They may hire the victim for a job, such as a personal assistant, and ask them to make purchases or book services. However, the person is never paid or reimbursed.
How do you avoid being catfished?
The best way to avoid being a victim is to question everything. If you are considering an online romance, is this person willing to video-chat with you? Frequently, a catfish will use another person’s photograph. If they are unwilling to video-chat, the person may be hiding their true identity. As with any online dating situation, if you choose to meet someone in person, meet in a public location where there will be other people around for your safety. Most important, remember that someone who cares about you should never use you for money. If you think there is any chance you are being catfished, err on the side of caution.
For online employment situations, make sure you research the employer first to ensure it’s legitimate. If someone is claiming to represent a company, call the headquarters to confirm that you are really speaking with that person. A real employer will also provide you with training, request that you complete tax forms, and help you set up a benefits package. If you are asked to start right away with no paperwork, it is likely a scam. Catfishing can be hard to detect, but as long as you are skeptical and think things through, you will be able to keep your heart – and your money – protected.