How to spot a catfish romance scam

The term “catfish” refers to someone who creates fake personal profiles online using someone else’s pictures and false biographical information to pretend to be someone else. It was made famous in 2012 by the TV show on MTV, which looked into the rise of online dating and impersonators. 

Catfish usually try to make their victims fall in love with them, either for personal motives, or for financial gain. They steal pictures of people who have public social media accounts, set up a profile under a different name, and message other people online to try and initiate conversations. 

With the start of the coronavirus pandemic, more people than ever before are using online dating services to meet others. Here are the warning signs to look out for that might mean the person you’re talking to online may be a catfish.

  1. They refuse to video chat

In today’s digital world it is very unlikely that the person using an online dating service or social media profile won’t have the ability to video call. If the person you are speaking with gives you a variety of excuses as to why they can’t show their face, chances are they might not be the same person as the pictures they’ve posted.

  1. Their photos always look perfect

People who use other people’s photos to catfish their victims are likely to only have a limited range of photos they can pick from – as their photo content will come from someone else’s profile. A good way to spot a catfish is to ask them to take a picture of themself with a particular object. If the only photos they send look very professional, this could be a red flag. 

  1. The relationship progresses quickly

A catfish is ultimately trying to make you fall in love with them. If they’re saying exactly what you want to hear, it could be so that you’re more inclined to trust them if they then ask you to help them financially. Many tales of catfishing begin with said catfish coming on very strong from the get-go -wanting a relationship before you’ve met them in real life. In general to avoid being catfished, it’s best to shy away from these kinds of interactions.

  1. They have no tagged photos on their social media

If they have a social media account like Instagram or Facebook, one quick way to spot if the person is a catfish is their presence on the site. If none of their friends have tagged photos of them, that’s suspicious. Most people who use social media will at least have been tagged in a few pictures by their friends. If there aren’t any on their profile, there’s a possibility they’re not being honest about their identity.

  1. They ask you to send them money

This is a massive warning sign of a catfish. It is not likely to be a direct ask but if the person you’re speaking to finds themselves in a financial bind and is seeking your assistance to get out of it, it’s time to bid them farewell. Whether this be a broken down car, medical bills, or plane tickets it is not your responsibility to help them out. You should NEVER GIVE MONEY to a person you’ve never met in real life. There are hundreds of horror stories about people giving away their savings to catfishes and while this is tragic, the judgment exercised here is poor. It’s far too easy for that person to then disappear with your money and never been heard from again.

Cyber dating can be great fun but it is always important to do everything you can to protect yourself online – and this extends to your love life. Making sure to check the person you are speaking to is who they say they are may not avoid heartache but it will keep you from being scammed in the long term.


If you have any questions, or other technology queries, leave a comment below or tweet @techtroublesho1.

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