Can You Spot a Catfish? By Robin Trimingham
This week I am following up my article on overcoming loneliness with some words of caution about online social networks. If you were paying attention last week you will notice that I made no mention of online dating as a possible remedy for loneliness and the following is an overview of some of the major reasons why.
To start, have a look at the following message that I received on a major social media site from someone that I have never met:
“Hi Robin How’re U doing..???My name is … i like your profile On Facebook, and you are looking charming and i will say life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the number of moments that take our breath away”. I’m looking for a woman who is ready for a true love and who’s willing to be an EQUAL and BEST FRIEND. Strong chemistry is a must, but so is ATTITUDE, TRUST, UNDERSTANDING and CONSISTENCY who is ready to settle down and who have a love passion. Looking forward for your reply. Take care have a nice and lovely day.”
What’s so wrong with this message some of you may ask, it seems harmless enough?
Well, let’s start with the fact that this is the standard sort of message that you might expect to receive if you had registered a profile on an online dating site. There’s just one problem … I am not registered on any dating site and yet this person has announced in his very first message to me that he is looking for “strong chemistry” and a “love passion” without even asking if I am interested in getting to know him.
But it gets worse.
Although the writer does have a Facebook page, which does have a photo and some other basic information, in the internet age there is absolutely NO guarantee that the person who sent me this message even is the person in the photo. There is not even any guarantee that this person single, or living where he claims to be, or has the friends he claims to have. In fact, there is no guarantee that this person is even a man (although in this case I do believe that the writer is male).
Is the writer just a lonelyhearted gentleman looking for a relationship?
Perhaps, but in the worst-case scenario, this is an example of catfishing, which is defined as “Internet scammers who fabricate online identities and entire social circles to trick people into romantic relationships” for a variety of purposes ranging from the thrill of manipulation, to the extortion of money.
According to the US Better Business Bureau one in seven online dating profiles is fraudulent and financial victims of these online predators have lost at least $1 billion in the last 3 years in the US and Canada — and the number is most likely much higher as many people are too embarrassed and humiliated to admit that they have been conned and many others are still actively being deceived without realizing it.
Catfishers are very experienced online predators and come in all shapes and sizes and ages. Be very cautious of giving your heart too quickly to someone who writes to you out of the blue and has a whole slew of reasons why you cannot meet in person or video chat with you on Skype; particularly if they initially agree to some form of face to face communication and then back out of it at the last moment. A professional online con artist may devote months to building your trust before asking for money or gifts the first time.
And gentlemen, in case you imagine that this post does not apply to you, be aware that in the most widely publicized case of catfishing, it was a man who was duped by a middle-aged housewife for the thrill of deceiving and manipulating her “prey”.
If you or someone you know suspects that they have been deceived – put the “relationship” on pause and tell someone. A little embarrassment is better than an empty bank account.
By Robin Trimingham