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How to avoid being CATFISHED while online dating

Updated on January 4, 2017

What is Catfishing? What is a Catfish?

According to Magazine.Foxnews:

A catfish is a person who pretends to be someone they’re not, and often uses social media to create a false identity in an effort to mislead. Catfishing, therefore, is typically when a person uses this fake identity to build a relationship with another person online.

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Have you ever been catfished?

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Why do people catfish?

People catfish for various reasons. This is where the "serious" aspect of it comes in. Some reasons can be out of boredom or as an escape from their current lives (obviously without thinking about the effect of their lies on other people) but in other more severe cases this could be in an attempt to scam you out of money or assets or even in an attempt to lure you in for more serious or deadly crimes.

Here are some of the common reasons for catfishing:

- Emotional Affairs or cheating
Some people are in serious relationships or even married and out of boredom in their current relationships, in search of an ego boost or on the spur of the moment after a fight or argument with their partner, decide to seek attention and affection online.
Many of these often maintain online relationships in the form of an emotional affair without the intention of ever meeting but as a mental and emotion fix, while others eventually turn things physical resulting in actual affairs.

- Boredom and a need for excitement or variety
As mentioned above, boredom often results in cat-fishing. Other times people feel the need for a bit of "excitement" and experience a thrill from making up a fictitious identity, telling others what they think they would like to hear or the feel of leading a double life by pretending to be someone they are not.

- Low self-esteem or insecurities over something
Some people lie about things they are insecure about:
They pretend to have a job or a lot of money.
They pretend to look a certain way by using someone elses photos.
They pretend to be a particular gender (gay / lesbian)
They pretend to be a certain race.
They pretend to have a certain body type.
They pretend to be a lot younger or older than they are.

- Crime
Another, more serious reason is criminal related.
Some people work towards gaining your trust so that they can scam you out of money, assets or even worse "kidnap" or assault you.

Please be extremely careful and vigilant when considering online dating or anytime when interacting with people you do not know personally.

How to avoid being catfished

The following tips may help you avoid being catfished or at least escaping before things get too serious and you get hurt either emotionally or physically.

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1. Don't get too attached

As hard as this may be to believe and at the same time to avoid; try not to get too attached to someone you have not met yet.
Keep reminding yourself that right now, until you have met and feel like you can honestly trust this person, they could be anyone.

Rather take an approach of "Guilty until proven innocent' then the usual "innocent until proven guilty" one.

It is sometimes hard to avoid this as the more you keep in contact with someone, the more you naturally become "attached" to them in some way. It is for this reason that many believe emotional affairs to be just as big (if not bigger) an infidelity as your usual physical affair.

An emotional connection to someone can be extremely hard to let go of and can often result in you believing the seemingly impossible when dealing with them. It is for this reason that many believe the most outrageous lies they are told by those who attempt catfishing them,

2. Be open-minded

Take everything you are told with a 'pinch of salt' and don't be naive. Do not believe everything the other person tells you until it has been proven in some or other way.
Rather be the skeptical person then the one who gets taken for a ride.

Trust is earned so the pother person should be understanding of the fact that you're not just easily going believe everything he / she says.

As the saying goes:
When something seems "too good to be true" - it usually is.

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3. Ask questions and take note of answers

It is important to pay attention to EVERYTHING he or she says. This will help you spot lies a little easier.

If he / she claims to be Vegan but is suddenly enjoying a juicy steak a few weeks later - that's a sure sign that he / she may be lying about other things too.
It is common that even the worlds greatest liars slip up occasionally.

Asking many questions also leaves a lot of room for him / her to make a mistake if they are lying to you.

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4. Do your research

Make use of the information obtained through your conversations and the questions you ask (as mentioned above). Use what you gather to conduct your own private investigation.

If you feel that you would like a professional to do an investigation for you, look for affordable private investigators online.

Doing a search online is relatively easy. Once you know the persons name, surname, nicknames, contact number etc you can google any of this information and you're bound to find something. It is EXTREMELY RARE that you will find someone who has absolutely nothing online especially if they are part of the younger generation (under 30 years old). Usually if you can't find anything valuable about them online, it means they may have given you a fake name.

Similarly, the person should have at least one social media profile if they are part of the younger generation. This does not necessary need to be something "fun" like Facebook, Twitter or Instagram but something for professional reasons; like LinkedIn.

A good question to ask, which I definitely wouldn't consider irrational, prying or too forward is what they do for a living and where they work.
Once you know the name of the company they work for it only takes a simple phone call to contact the company and ask to speak to them. If the company says they've never heard of such a person then your questions been answered.

This would obviously be a bit too extreme if you've just been speaking to someone for a few days or a week or two but if things seems to be getting a little more serious and / or you have some very strong suspicions then it is definitely worth a shot.

5. Video chat

Video chat or video messaging chats like Skype or Omegle help a lot if you are concerned that the person may be pretending to be someone they are not. If you think they may be using someone elses photo for any reason, then they would be unlikely to hide this in a video call.

This of course will not help you if they are the person in the picture but are lying about their finances, age, sexuality or whether or not they are in a relationship.

If you have a recording app, this would help serve as evidence especially if the person is catfishing for criminal reasons. They are also more likely to try and avoid a video call or video message for this reason.

Online dating meeting tips

Don't:

- Ever meet someone for the first time at your home or his / hers

- Ever meet someone for the first time without telling someone else where you are going and who you are meeting. It may also be a good idea to provide them with a photo, contact details or any other relevant details of the person.

- Ever send anyone money or assets

- Ever give out overly personal information (bank details, pins, social security / ID number, etc)

Always:

- Meet in a public place

- Use your own transport to get to and from a first date or meeting. Don't let them pick you up or drop you off until you are really sure that you can trust them.

- Be vigilant even when on a date:
Keep an eye on your drink at all times to avoid spiking and on your belongings like you cellphone to avoid spyware

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