Cafishing: all you need to know in 2024

The online dating scene in 2024 is tricky, with many fake profiles, scammers, and odd people with less-than-honest intentions.

If you’re using apps like Tinder, Bumble, etc, for online dating, you better be warned that catfish are out there looking to scam you big time. 

Spotting these catfish quickly is essential for your safety and peace of mind. This guide will help you spot these catfish and foolproof ways to protect yourself and at least enjoy the online experience.

What Is Catfishing?

According to the eSafety Commissioner, Catfishing occurs when someone sets up a fake online identity and uses it to trick and control others. They often do this to scam people out of money, blackmail them, or harm them in some other way.

In some cases, people can go to the extreme and create an entirely new personality with documents and photos (stolen from other people’s social media accounts) to make you believe they are someone else. People catfish for many reasons, but the most common are low self-esteem, need for money or have severe mental issues and want to manipulate and control another innocent person. And, worst of all, some catfishers are looking to prey on people and steal their money via a variety of scams.

Becoming the victim of a catfisher (and don’t for one minute think that this cannot happen to you) can wreak havoc on an innocent person’s life. You can lose money, be emotionally hurt, and suffer from the trauma of being duped by a person you thought was being honest, upfront and decent. Catfishing can also be in the form of people pretending not to want a one-night stand and presenting themselves as wanting a relationship, but in reality, they’re just after sex. Catfishing can ruin a person’s legitimate chance at meeting someone they deserve as they become jaded and suspicious of people in the online world. Catfishing is super dangerous and can ruin lives.

Signs of Catfishing: Spotting the Most Common Warning Signs

It’s essential to recognise the warning signs of catfishing behaviour, so you don’t become a victim. Our experience as matchmakers in CanberraSydney, and Melbourne means we have developed a highly sensitive antenna for these scams. Here are some of the signs you should look for. Stay alert, friends!

Fake-Looking Social Media Photos

If the person photos you chat with online look far too perfect, this is a red flag. Images can be photoshopped, filters added, and if all the photos are headshots with the same background – watch out! Plus, with AI now being part of our daily lives, it can be hard to tell if a person’s photo is real. I’ve seen (mainly from Asian girls) photos from the same girl with at least a dozen different profiles on Tinder. And, even if a person’s photo is not so authentic, this could be a ploy used to lull you into a false sense of security. The rule of thumb here is not to rely solely on photos, as these are easy to fake.

Poor Language Skills

It’s easy to generate and use AI content to communicate online, but this might mean the person is in another country. If their language sounds generic, looks odd, or is not naturally flowing, then this is a red flag.

Taking Things Too Fast

People who catfish will try to get you quickly by telling you they are in love with you, even if it’s just after a few days, which can sound fantastic, especially for very lonely people who crave affection. And, if they ask for nude explicit photos, they’ll use this to extort money from you for not sharing your photos publicly.

Verification Challenges

It’s best to verify the person early in the chat by asking for a video call or a quick chat. Many dating Apps have this feature, so there’s no excuse for dodging this more than appropriate request. Catfish never want to reveal who they are, so they always avoid the phone call or video meet-ups. The catfish aim to keep you hooked for as long as possible till they get what they want. If they mention crypto or tell you they are into crypto for a living, they run fast and move on quickly.

Refusing to Go on a Date

The whole point of dating Apps is to meet the person and see if there’s a connection. If they’re constantly making excuses and you can’t meet them, this is a bad sign, as they have probably misrepresented themselves in the photos or are not who they say they are. And even if they are using their photos, they might have told you lies to drag you into their net, so they are definitely not keen to meet until they have made the score from you, whether financial or emotional.

Check their Social Media Accounts 

OK, so you’ve been chatting with them for a while, so it’s a no-brainer that you get to know their name. You should check their Facebook and Instagram profiles to see if they look natural. Catfish will have few friends and odd-sounding names. If they have no social media profiles, I’d be concerned. Remember, scammers are most likely based overseas and will not be able to have or attract local Australian friends.

Fake Stories

Catfishers can tell you one story and another to a different person. In fact, they could communicate with hundreds of people at the same time, so they’re bound to slip up with their jobs or the past history of their lives. If they stumble with details about their family or friends and things don’t add up, this is a bad sign. Make a mental note of unrealistic things, pick them up on these points, and see if they can justify it. If they get defensive or aggressive, they might be hiding something. Also, if they start telling you stories that try to pull on your heartstrings, they are trying to open your wallet. They might say they have no money to feed their kids, are in debt, etc. But everything is fabricated to make you feel sorry for them, and if you’re a decent person, you’ll probably be sympathetic to them and transfer money. As soon as you hit the send button, you’ve been catfished. These people are experts at the sob story, so stay vigilant.

Asking For Money

Never ever, and I will repeat this: never send any money whatsoever to a stranger online, even if you have been chatting with them for weeks. Those sad luck stories and poor is me life stories mentioned above are all staged to try to get money out of you. Remember, these people are professionals at what they do, and wielding complex luck stories is part of the game. As soon as money is brought up, run a mile!!

How to Avoid Being Catfished

If you think that you’re part of a catfish scam and want to verify the other person’s identity, there are ways to protect yourself.

Use the power of Google.

Use copies of their photos and pop them into an image reverse search on Google to see if their profile photos come up and what else appeared simultaneously. Look for discrepancies in the photos and see if they all look like they might be AI-generated. If they all look the same with extraordinarily photoshopped images, then there’s an issue.

Stalk them on Social Media

Check their profiles or supposed profiles on social media accounts. It’s easy to do, and everyone does this before meeting someone new. Obviously, you won’t stalk them instantly, but if things start looking promising, it’s good to do your homework online, including checking out who they really are on their Facebook page, etc.

Push for the Video Call

If they are who they say they are and their intentions are legitimate, then they’ll be fine with having a video call, especially if it’s long distance. Catfishing is all about anonymity, so they’ll do anything they can to stay out of sight but be happy only to text. This is a big worry if they never want to speak on the phone or Facetime/Zoom. Remember, their intentions as catfish experts are to fleece you out of pocket, so they definitely don’t want to be identified.

Slow Things Dow

Catfish want you to believe that they love you, and they want to push this notion quickly. So they’ll say and do anything to speed this process up. Try to put the brakes on this before you are 110% confident that they are honest and their intentions are righteous.

Talk With Your Mates

See what your friends have to say about this Mr or Miss Mysterious person whom you’ve only texted online and never spoken to. They’ll shed light on this and pull you quick smart back to reality. Loneliness is a horrible affliction. We can all go through this, especially if you’ve just broken up with someone and want to believe that there’s another person out there. Catfish can smell your insecurity and eagerness to fall back in love, and they’ll be the first to take advantage of this and leave you penniless if they can.

Trust Your Feelings

Don’t be too trusting and naive. Go with your instincts, and if something just doesn’t feel right, then it’s time to pull the plug and delete, block and ghost them. Don’t give them the opportunity to worm their way out of this, as they are slick operators and will know exactly what to say to win back your affection and trust. Be strong, be focused and know that you are being played by a masterful catfish. And worst of all, they could be the same gender as you – have you thought of that?

What happens if you’ve been catfished?

If you’ve suddenly realised that you’ve been the victim of a catfish scam, there are preventative measures you can take to help protect yourself.

Ghost Them ASAP

Block them ASAP – don’t even think about it. Just block, delete, and even change your email address and phone number (in the worst-case scenario). Unmatch their profiles on Tinder, Bumble or Hinge and block them on Facebook, etc.

Play their game

Reverse catfish and play their game until they get bored and know that you’ve caught onto them. They’ll soon realise that they’ve found out once your tone and demeanour change. As soon as they start being aggressive, it’s time to enact your exit strategy, which you can implement quickly. Blocking someone takes a few seconds.

Where to from here?

When you’re ready to resume dating and want to do it properly without the stress or headache of potentially being catfished again, it’s time to make the right move and chat with a dating service or matchmaker who will vet all matches so you only meet genuine people.

Kiss catfishing goodbye forever and call Robyn from Blue Label Life on 1300 553 510.

robyn nind - professional matchmaker

Robyn Nind is a dating coach and matchmaker at Blue Label Life. Robyn has helped countless singles find love and a partner.

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