How to catch a catfish online

by | Mar 14, 2023

A young woman looking sadly at her phone, showing why it's important to know how to catch a catfish online.
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These days, it’s super easy to connect with people around the world online. Sometimes this can lead to beautiful friendships—and even lifelong romances. But unfortunately, cybercriminals use social media and other channels as an opportunity to take advantage of others. Have you felt growing concerns that someone you’re talking to isn’t who they claim to be? If so, you might be dealing with an online catfish. Fortunately, there are some red flags you can use to catch a catfish online before they do serious damage.

What are the risks of falling victim to a catfish?

You may wonder about the risks of engaging with online catfish. And sadly, the effects can go far beyond feeling like you’ve lost a close friend or partner. Once a catfish has built up a false sense of security, you might share personal details without a second thought that they can use to bully, extort, or even blackmail you.

Many online catfish either ask directly for money or tug at your heartstrings by dishing out false sob stories of unexpected hardship. Countless people have given up credit card information online, resulting in credit card theft, identity theft, and fraud.

Perhaps the most frightening risk of online catfish is physical harm alongside the emotional damage. When online scammers feel cornered, or if they’ve been caught and their money is cut off, they may lash out—which can escalate to serious harm or even the unthinkable in rare cases.

How do you catch a catfish online?

A young woman looking satisfied, demonstrating why you should know how to catch a catfish online.

There are several red flags to look out for that might indicate you’ve been a victim of catfishing:

  • Watch your wallet: The number-one motivation for many online catfish is money. If someone acts flirty and moves fast, quickly escalating to requests for financial help, beware. Unfortunately, romance scammers will mislead you with affection to get your guard down.
  • You can never seem to get them on a phone or video call: Being camera-shy is definitely a thing. But if you’ve been chatting for months and your friend still won’t talk on the phone—let alone join a video call—you might want to dig deeper.
  • They won’t meet in person, either: Most people who catfish pretend to live far away from you, even if they live right in your town. This ideal excuse for being unable to meet in person enables them to keep hiding. But if there’s a strangely convenient “reason” why they can never meet in real life, that’s fishy.
  • They’re unusually secretive: This one can be tricky at first, since many other people are simply protecting themselves and their families online, too. But if you’ve been talking for a while and they know way more about you than you know about them, watch out.
  • They have little to no online presence: Some people simply aren’t fans of social media. But if someone’s talking to you regularly online, watch out for bare or brand-new social media profiles. Profile pictures that never change are iffy, too.
  • Their photos look too professional or curated: Instagram, Tinder, and Facebook are common platforms for online catfish. Luckily, you can use plenty of other profiles to gauge what’s normal. If someone’s photos look too good to be true, they probably are!
  • They ask you for explicit content: Don’t be fooled if someone tells you this is normal for online dating. It’s actually a common extortion technique that can show you how to spot a catfish online from a mile away. Your private photos or videos could easily be used for extortion or blackmail, so it’s a serious red flag if a potential catfish starts asking for these.

What do you do if you’ve been catfished?

Realizing the person you loved doesn’t really exist can be emotionally devastating. While you’re recovering, it might be hard to even think about the possibility being catfished again.

Either way, it’s important to stay on guard. Here are some tips on how to catch a catfish online:

  • Safeguard your accounts with a password manager: Change all your passwords after an online catfish encounter, especially any that you might have shared with them. And don’t share your new passwords with anyone in the future—even your new online bestie or love interest.
  • Use a VPN to protect your location: This can prevent past catfish from being able to track you as easily. And there’s no harm in openly telling future friends you’re not comfortable disclosing your exact location to someone you’ve recently met online. If they become aggressive afterwards or try to guilt you into giving away your location, that’s another red flag.
  • Consider going private for a while: While it might seem disheartening to have to hide your content online, making your social media accounts private for a while might be beneficial. You can always share your content publicly again later once you’ve had a chance to re-center. Next time, you’ll know how to make sure your personal information is secure.
  • Keep records of everything: Make sure you take screenshots of any interactions with your online “buddy” that seem suspect. You should avoid giving away money to people you’ve never met. But if you choose to, be sure to screenshot or record any monetary transactions. These will come in handy if you end up having to get law enforcement involved or attempt to recover your funds.

Make meaningful and safe online connections

Three girls have fun in the park: They followed online safety best practices and learned how to catch a catfish online!

From watching out for unusual levels of secrecy to fortifying your own defenses with a good password manager and a secure wireless internet connection, there are several ways to protect yourself on the web. Now that you know how to catch a catfish online, you’ll be able to look around for your next friend or date with a heightened sense of security.

For more information on how Quantum Fiber can help protect you from dangerous catfish who want to steal your data, stop by our blog. Always use a critical eye, no matter how great your new online connection seems!

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