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As easy and appealing online dating may be, it does come with a risk that needs to be avoided: Catfishing.
Dating apps like Tinder, OkCupid, Bumble, Hinge, Happn, etc and sites like match.com and eharmony.com have changed the way we pursue romance.
Instead of flirting with someone in a disco, bar or any other place, we can swipe them in or out of our lives from the comfort of our homes.
Nowadays, catfishing has become more common and more dangerous than someone could expect before.
In fact, you probably know someone that has been catfished at some point of another... or you are asking yourself right now: "Am I being catfished?".
But before we start talking on this topic it is important to realize what does “catfishing” really means.
Catfishing is simply a deceptive act of creating fake online profiles, pretending to be someone else.
It's very common on social media and dating websites or apps.
Well, there are a number of reasons for catfish dating. Most fake persons on a dating app often use it for financial gains, to kill boredom and loneliness, revenge on a former partner, or they just love to cause trouble.
The victims usually end up feeling embarrassed, shocked, hurt, betrayed, depressed, as well as regret wasting their money and countless hours on a fake relationship.
In extreme cases, a person can become a victim of sexual assault or even murder.
You certainly don't want to fall victim to catfishing.
That's why it's important to learn how to identify and avoid it when using social media or online dating websites.
To find out if someone is catfishing you, you'll need to watch out for the following common signs of catfishing.
Consider it a red flag if the person confesses their strong love on your first online encounters, and it seems they're interested to push your relationship forward quickly; even though you haven't met them in person.
If it's love at first online-sight, then you need to be a little more cautious.
A catfisher maybe after pulling on your emotional heartstrings just to manipulate and use you to fulfill their motives.
Asking for a voice call is the easiest way to expose a catfisher.
If they seem truly interested in you but refuse to answer your calls, then that's enough reason not to trust them.
They could be of the opposite gender and of course, a voice call would expose
You know you're being catfished if the person is comfortable with just written communication or phone calls (if you were able to get him on the phone).
If you request for a video chat, they'll give you lots of excuses like they have a broken camera or their internet is not good enough to stream video, etc.
They may have also proposed on several occasions to meet you in person, but always have recurring emergencies that prevent them from honoring their promise.
In this century, they should make an effort to find a way to connect with you on live video.
Otherwise, put an end to the relationship and count yourself lucky.
Pro Tip: Keep in mind though, some catfishers are very smart that they'll have a friend or family member do the video chats.
So, pay attention and see if there's a change in their voice and speaking style.
While the person might be having a genuine reason for requesting money from you, it should be at least when they've met you in real life and you have a history together.
Sending large or repeated sums of money to someone you just recently met is not advisable.
Chances are the person is trying to scam you into getting money.
Just turn down their requests and see how fast they'll vanish.
Don't get us wrong on this. We don't mean everyone that travels all over the world to execute job duties is a con artist.
However, you should have second thoughts if they have a job that requires them to travel too much, and this becomes a common excuse to avoid meeting you.
In most cases, they'll get stuck in a foreign country and try requesting money from you.
One of the popular ways catfishers have perfected on to create a quick emotional connection with you is sharing their traumatic past experiences.
That way, it's easy to gain your pity and ask for other favors.
As the old saying goes: If something seems too good to be true, it probably is.
Does everything about that person seem too perfect?
If you simply can't spot any flaw in them, then that's a warning you shouldn't raise your hopes too much.
Don't be duped, and trust your gut.
Although there's no surefire way to go about this, there are few steps you can follow to protect yourself.
These tips work for any of the dating apps or sites, like Tinder, OkCupid, Bumble, Hinge, Happn, etc and sites like match.com and eharmony.com.
Well, let's check them out.
Don't trust anyone you've just met without doing a background check on their online profiles.
The good news is that there are reliable third party services that you can take advantage of to unmask a fake person.
For example, you can use Spokeo.com to find out if the person you're interested in is who they say they are.
You just can run a phone number search or use reverse email lookup and find out more about your online friend.
Also, reverse phone lookup Spokeo can help you to know if they have a criminal history.
Besides this, you can also check his OTHER social profiles.
Does he say he is a doctor? Well... does he has a LinkedIn profile? Does he has a Facebook account? Instagram?
If he doesn't have any social profile... that's another red flag.
A well set up profile featuring good quality photos, including selfies will more likely attract quality prospects.
A weaker profile, on the other hand, can easily welcome messages from fake people.
When you attract more real interactions, you'll find it a lot easier to spot something that's off the radar.
Also, Catfishers are after persons with a low self esteem. Because they are easier to be emotionally manipulated.
Shy, dark photos may encourage them to engage.
It's dangerous to give away your personal information like phone number, social security number, street address, birthday, etc. to a stranger.
Smart catfishers will also ask for your bank account to send you money.
This will subject you to several risks, including your identity being stolen.
By nature, online dating involves chatting with people on a website or app before finally meeting them in person.
However, if that person seems to be on the rush to have the conversation off the dating site, then that might be a sign you're dealing with a catfisher.
Don't fall for it.
Talk to your friends or people close to you If you plan to meet the person, it's best to disclose this to your close friends.
Talking to friends can help spot certain common red flags you an emotionally involved person couldn't, potentially saving you from dangerous acts.
In the 21st century, there are many ways to identify the scammer before being catfished. Look through these red flags.
If you see a profile in any dating app or site with only professional-grade headshots and comp cards, treat that as a red flag.
People, who are looking for a big love usually share their everyday photos like selfies, photos from working place or just photos of their day off, when relaxing near the pool or the cost of the sea.
But scammers aren’t able to show you their daily routine, so they use to share professional-grade photos, like headshots or studio pictures.
You can see many examples of how these pictures would be in any image bank, like this one here.
A legit social media profile, often than not, features multiple photos of a person and their regular activities.
Catfishers often use a few photos that are extremely attractive, and which have been stolen mostly from models and celebrities to easily flatter you.
If you're suspicious even with an abundance of photos, there's an easy way to find out if the pictures are linked to another person's profile (or just belong to someone else).
Let's see how we can use the technology in our favor and and run a reverse image search on Google to find out if the photos of guy you are dating online belong to someone else.
Step #1: Download the photo to your computer.
Step #2: Go to images.google.com.
Step #3: Click on the camera icon.
Step #3: You have two options now. Either you paste the URL of the picture or you upload the image you downloaded in Step #1.
By default, when you click on the camera icon, "Paste image URL" will be the selected option, just click on the "Upload an image" tab.
Step #4: Click on "Choose File" and upload the photo. Google will show an "Uploading file" progress popup.
Step #5: And once it's over, it will show all the pages where that picture appears.
For this particular case, we used one of the photos in the image bank mentioned before. This one:
And if you check the Google results... you can see that this picture appears in many sites.
Step #6: Now you need to ask yourself. Does it makes sense? Does it makes sense that your guy appears in so many websites?
This is a clear indication that something is wrong and you are dating a fake person.
You can find more information about reverse image search on Google reverse search here.
Another way to tell it's a fake profile is when a person uploads group photos, making it hard for you to identify them in the photos.
It's easy to impersonate anyone on the picture, and this is especially true if they are photos from far away.
Anyone serious about finding someone special will make an effort to complete and make their online profile appealing as possible.
Leaving large sections empty should make you think twice.
For example, they will provide their name, age, location, and may fill the other sections with the same information over and over.
Be wary of new profiles with a few friends, especially if that person is only available on one platform and he's never tagged in friend's pictures.
If they're on multiple platforms like Instagram and Twitter, it becomes a lot easier to verify credibility based on their following.
They must demonstrate consistency across the platforms to have your trust.
After discovering you've been catfished, it's understandable that you'll feel bad for yourself.
Embarrassment, hurt, shame, emptiness are common feelings that catfishing victims feel after finding out.
The emotional consequences of a long lasting online relationship you were on can be devastating.
However, the most important thing to do is to focus on getting your life back in order. And here's what you'll do.
You are probably hurt, and don't worry, that will heal with time.
First take care of possible sensitive information that your catfisher may have and that could potentially hurt you.
Dealing with this kind of things while you are emotionally hurt may be an inconvencience, but they need to be addressed ASAP.
Lots of people go through the same experience, and accepting that you've been duped will do you good in reversing the effects.
Spending more of your time feeling hurt, angry, or worrying because of the deceptive acts is harmful to your recovery process.
Don't let your anger or pain stand in the way of your recovery.
It's good to remember what's good about you and find articles on how you can actively get over a breakdown and depression.
Stay positive by reminding yourself that this will pass with time.
Make a list of the red flags you noticed from the online catfish dating to avoid going through the same experience ever again.
Avoid friends or family members that will aggravate your pain and anger. I mean for example those that may have warned you before.
Friends with your best interest at heart will encourage you to try new experiences to help keep your mind occupied. It's a good way of recovering.
Experts can also help speed up your recovery. Find a good psychologist and try to visit some meetings with him.
You also can help other people to avoid catfishing by sharing the information about your dating scam experience online.
If you feel strong enough, make some posts on your social media profiles and ask friends and followers of yours to repost them.
Moreover, If the scam ended up with some illegal actions like theft (money/personal information), rape or even murder, then make a report to the police so they can take some actions immediately.
Although the possible consequences of being catfished may discourage you, We are not saying that you should't date online.
In fact, there are plenty of happy couples that met online and have a healthy, loving relationship.
The catfishing is not a novelty in the 21st century. Anyone, because of his credulity and carelessness can become a victim of the online dating scam.
You need to go slow on online dating and give yourself time to do a background check on the person you've met.
There a lot of “red flags” that you should look for during your online communication.
Also, there is plenty of apps like the reverse image or phone lookup, that can help you to know the truth.
Don't be duped by the good first impressions on those online profiles. You have nothing to lose by being extra cautious.
If you have your doubts, play it safe.
Have you ever been catfished? Do you know someone who has? Tell us your story and help others in the comments below.
Valerie Malecha is a content writer for Spokeo. Her main interests are traveling, meeting new people and trying something new. She is experienced in marketing, business, travel, and technology topics.
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