Don’t Take the Catfishing Bait
On the internet, people can be (or pretend to be) anyone they want to be. A person who create a fake personal profile (normally on social media sites or dating apps) has become known as a ‘catfish’. Some people create new identities for fun, but it’s all too easy for these fake profiles to be used to con, torment and bully other people.
Why is it called catfishing?
A 2012 documentary called ‘Catfish’ presents the experience of Nev Schulman, who discovered that the gorgeous woman he fell in love with online was actually a middle-aged, married mother. At the end of the documentary, Nev tells a story about how live cod are shipped along with catfish as this keeps the cod alive and ensures the quality of the fish. He says there will always be ‘catfish’ out there (like the woman who conned him), keeping us on our toes.
He has since produced a show on MTV, ‘Catfish’, which aims to solves catfishing mysteries for members of the public. Statistical analysis of the show reveals the following about catfish:
- 64% are female
- 24% assume the role of the opposite gender
- 25% use a fake occupation
- 69% use someone else’s name
- 73% use photos of someone else online
The two victims of catfishing
Almost every catfishing story involves two victims – the person who is duped into believing a false identity, and the person whose identity has been stolen by the catfish.
Why do people do it?
There are a number of different types of catfishing for different intents and purposes, some of which are clearly criminal. Here are some examples of how people use fake profiles:
- To appear more desirable/ attractive on social media and dating apps
- To spark online relationships
- For stalking and grooming
- To steal money
- To obtain photos or videos of an explicit nature to sell online
- To bully or blackmail the victim
How to spot a catfish
When speaking to someone you have only ‘met’ online, look out for the following warning signs:
- The person refuses to video chat or makes excuses why he/she can’t video chat
- They are never able to meet in person
- They seem too good to be true
- They ask for money
Don’t become a victim – use your common sense and don’t be fooled by someone pretending to be someone else.