Online dating has seen a massive surge in popularity over recent years, Tinder alone boasts that its users have over 1 million dates per week. Whilst many relationships work, the idea of online dating has, of course, led to some users abusing the system. I am of course talking about catfishing.
To lure (someone) into a relationship by means of a fictional online persona.
Put simply, users steal the photos of someone else, usually someone pretty good looking and set out to make people believe they are real. Many catfish accounts set up social media profiles, add friends (some of these may even be the same person!) and make their fictional lives look real to the people they are trying to lure in. A rough figure worked out that in 2018 around 10% of all online dating profiles are in fact fake - Tinder alone has an estimated 50 million users around the globe, I’ll let you do the maths on that one (it’s 5,000,000)! Facebook is another common place to encounter catfish, the platform has over 83 million fake accounts!
Handbook reached out to Tinder, Instagram and Facebook to find out what their stance was in regards to catfishing on their platforms, all platforms declined to comment.
Last summer, some of my photos were used on a Facebook profile which was used to catfish people, stupidly they added someone that I know and she kindly let me know that there was another me out there. After a week of back-and-forth between myself and Facebook, including me sending Facebook proof of my identity, Facebook decided that the account did not break any of their terms and allowed the catfish to keep on fishin’.
Why they exist
To be able to hide your true identity for that long, you’ve got to be a pretty strong compulsive liar, often they have low self-esteem and feel the need to use someone else’s identity to give them the confidence they lack. Sometimes it can be a little more suspect and they could be catfishing you to have gifts of money sent to them. It’s worth noting here that whilst catfishing isn’t actually illegal, if money or gifts are involved then it could become an extortion case.
When it comes to motives, they don’t always have a reason, it could simply be boredom or loneliness that has led them to deceive people. However, it can be a little more sinister with revenge as a top reason
How to spot a catfish
It can be relatively hard to spot an account that is a catfish. It’s worth having a look at their social media accounts to see whether they talk to friends much. It’s reported that catfish accounts on Facebook tend to have unto 6 times more friends than a regular user because they are constantly adding new people to appear real.
Try running their photos through Google’s reverse image search, if you start to get back results that link to accounts you didn’t know about, you may want to start asking questions.
One of the biggest tell-tale signs is their response when you ask to meet them. If they are happy to meet and actually show up, it’s likely the real deal, however, if they appear shifty, try to dodge the question or stand you up without reason, there may be good reason to be alarmed.
Real stories: When catfishing backfires…
After reaching out for your stories on Instagram, this was a personal favourite!
‘I saw this amazing girl called Milly on Tinder, she immediately got a Super Like from me, and from there we chatted most days. She always got funny when I asked her if she’d like to meet me for a drink, there was always some elaborate and over-the-top story about how something had happened and she couldn’t make it. A couple of times she actually agreed to meet me but stood me up…I realise looking back now that these were all alarm bells, but she made me laugh and kept me intrigued and I was desperate to meet her in person.
Phone calls were rejected, she blocked my number a few times and by this point, I was growing suspicious. I went full Nev [Schulman] and started to reverse-search her images on Google, sure enough, an Instagram account for the real Milly popped up. I decided to bite the bullet and send the real Milly a message - much to my surprise she responded. We ended up chatting loads and even met in person - we’ve been dating for a couple of months and even sent a selfie to the fake Milly!’ - Anon
Have you got a catfish story? Get in touch via firstname.lastname@example.org to share your story!