Online dating has become more commonplace. It’s likely you know someone who is in a long-term relationship with (or even married to) a person they met online. According to the Pew Research Center, 30% of Americans have tried online dating and report a mostly positive experience. That doesn’t mean there aren’t risks to this virtual way of making a romantic connection, however. One of these risks is getting catfished. 

What Does Catfished Mean in Dating?

One of the major risks of dating online is the possibility that you’ll be catfished. If you’ve never heard of the term catfish outside of a seafood restaurant, then listen up. In dating, catfishing refers to the practice of creating a fake online persona in order to take advantage of someone, either emotionally, financially, or in many cases, both. Know if you’re looking through a fake profile here.

Also called romance scams, instances of people getting catfished are very real. You may think you’re too smart to fall for one of these vicious online pranks, but fake accounts can be quite convincing. The FBI receives tens of thousands of reports each year detailing cruel and expensive catfishing cons. 

How to Protect Yourself Against Catfishing

Catfishing is becoming more and more common, and con artists are getting better at their virtual games. Luckily, there are proven strategies you can use to protect yourself against these romantic rises. 

Reverse Google search profile pics 

One of the best ways to quickly detect a catfishing scam in progress is to reverse image search the user’s profile picture or any other picture he or she may have sent you. Google Images has a feature that allows you to upload a picture and search for that picture across the Internet. This is a quick and easy way to identify any other sites where that photo is featured. If the pic in question is plastered all over the web, then it’s likely you’re dealing with a catfish rather than a real person. 

Search for the person online

While you’re on Google, you might as well go ahead and perform a traditional search for any other information you can find. At the very least, you’ll likely find a Facebook or Instagram account you can cross-check with the dating app. If the details don’t match up but the pictures are the same, then you’ve likely caught yourself a catfish, so to speak. 

You could also copy and paste sentences and phrases from the person’s online dating profile and search for those. Catfish are crafty, but they’re also known to be lazy, so it’s not uncommon to find exact matches across several other profiles under the names of different people. Rest assured this is not a coincidence! 

Other signs you’re being catfished? No social media accounts at all or more than one on the same platform (e.g., two different Twitter accounts). 

Guard your heart and your wallet on dating apps 

When online dating, remember that access to your emotions and finances should be reserved for people you know in real life. When you don’t have these boundaries in place, you greatly increase the chance of getting catfished. Remember, real people with good intentions don’t ask strangers for money online. Nor do they usually profess their love to said strangers without ever having met them. These are odd behaviors and should be eyebrow-raising at the very least. 

A common tactic of online scam artists is to prey on your emotions. They may say they’re sick or impoverished or even stranded. They’ll send multiple messages pleading for your assistance in one form or another, usually financial. This seems way too obvious a tactic, but perfectly “smart” people fall for these types of tricks all the time. Why? Because they are thinking with their hearts instead of their heads. Moral of the story? Don’t develop feelings for someone before meeting them in real life. That brings us to the next strategy. 

If you’re interested, request a meeting right away

As soon as you know you’re interested in the possibility of a relationship with someone you’ve matched with online, ask for a real-life meeting. The longer you pursue the person virtually, the greater the chance of getting catfished as you develop real feelings for this person you’ve never actually met. Usually, catfish will be quite evasive when asked to meet up in real life. They may make all kinds of excuses and even plan a date, only to cancel later or simply not show up. These are big red flags that should not be ignored. 

Know when it’s too good to be true

It’s true what they say. Some things really are too good to be true. If your match checks every one of your boxes and you can’t find a single flaw, then you may want to take a closer look at the situation. That’s not to say that there aren’t great people out there waiting for you to swipe right. There are. And you deserve to find one. But even great people have flaws, so proceed with caution when you think you’ve found the “perfect” guy or gal.” 

Consult your friends and family

Are you being catfished or just overthinking things? This is a question you may want to pose to your inner circle. If you feel like something isn’t quite right but can’t put your finger on it, talk the situation through with friends and/or family members. You may be too close to the situation to see things for what they are. It could be that you need the perspective of an objective outsider to tell if you’re getting catfished or just being paranoid. 

There are plenty of potential rewards associated with online dating, read the joys of online dating for more insight. Plus, it can be a lot of fun. Just remember that anything worthwhile requires some degree of risk. Consider the potential of getting catfished one of those risks, but also know that there are things you can do to reduce it. 

Remember that we’re always here to help. We have tons of dating advice for you to be on top of your game! Be in the know – browse and read through more articles here.