Apps like Tinder and Bumble are popular sources for finding a date online, but they’re also a playground for catfishers, like the one who fooled a transwoman on Tinder recently that took social media by storm.
A catfisher creates fake profiles on social media sites and dating apps in order to prey on the vulnerable in the hopes of humiliating them, scamming them for money, or just play around with them.
If you’re using dating sites or apps to find a potential partner, always exercise caution before you get too involved.
A catfisher can be anyone, from a stranger to someone you know, like an ex-lover. Or worse, it could be a stalker trying to find out more information about you.
And, while spotting some fake profiles might be as easy as identifying the Nigerian prince asking for money, other catfishers are masters of disguise.
Even if there’s no completely foolproof way to avoid being a victim of catfishing, here are a few tips to help you make sure the person on the other side of the screen is who they really say they are:
Do your research
Once you’ve matched with someone you’re interested in, conduct a Google search to make sure the person is who they say they are. Just search their first and last name, followed by the location. Oftentimes, you’ll see social media profiles, but if the search comes up empty, that’s a big, glaring red flag.
Dive into social media profiles
Most people have some sort of a social media presence, like Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, but they typically don’t have two of each account. If you come across two Facebook profiles of the same person, it’s possible a catfisher has created a fake account using someone else’s photos.
To spot a fake social media account, look for these clues: Do they only have 15 friends? Just a few photos or vacation photos that look like they’ve been stripped straight from Google? Zero posts? These are all red flags and it’s best to block and report them.
Try to set up a phone call or video chat
Before agreeing to meet with someone, make it a point to have a phone conversation or video chat. This is for your safety and can help confirm they actually exist.
If your date refuses or comes up with an elaborate story as to why they can’t chat, it’s probably because they’re using a fake photo. Make it a rule to never meet up with someone unless you’ve been able to video chat.
Never give up your personal info
This one seems like a no-brainer, but if you’re deeply involved with someone, you may not see the warning signs. Once a catfisher has gained your trust, they may start asking more questions about you, like your birthday, where you live and eventually your bank account information.
Also, remember to set your social media accounts to private, so only friends can view what you post. If your information is public, it gives catfishers wider access to your life, which they can use to their advantage when approaching you online. Their next step would be to use that connection to con you into giving them even more personal information.
If you notice a catfish online, remember to report and stop contact with them immediately.