How to spot a Catfish-the red flags and warning signs

When we’re wading through the online dating profiles, avoiding all the spammers and lovebots that aim to lure you to another site hoping you’ll subscribe to other services and consequently line scammers pockets…how do you also navigate the overwhelming amount of unknown fake profiles on the dating platforms or social media?

Knowledge is powerful. Being aware that Catfish scams (and individuals) exist is most important. It will put you on guard when you come across anything that is mirroring these types of situations. Read about the types of Financial Scam Catfish and Personal Catfish  in my posts. There are however, common tactics used by most Catfish. You can help get through the minefield by checking out a few red flags:

Who’s photo?
If their profile picture looks staged, like it should be in a catalogue or looks like a model, it probably is. Actors from other countries are also popular choices as they are mainly unknown over here. Run the image through a search engine like ‘Tineye’ or Google reverse image search. Screen grab the image, crop any outside bits off if necessary and then upload it. If it comes back showing the picture on lots of websites, you know it has been used elsewhere and is not a personal photo. Just remember that some fraudsters may be using another person’s social media photo and these won’t necessarily show in a reverse image search. Having only 1 photo is another little flag. If questioned and they respond with  ‘I can only upload onto Whatsapp right now… ‘ be aware. Any military profile pictures should be viewed with caution too. This is one of the most common cover stories for scammers.

Let’s exchange numbers!
They’ll try and move the conversation onto a different platform, usually something like Whatsapp, Kik or Email. This is for a few reasons. Scammers know that anti scam technology software on the sites will likely pick up trends in conversation and shut down the profile. If they move you away they can continue undetected. Other reasons that a personal Catfish will want you off the app, is so they can continue grooming targets without the risk of you catching them. Once you’ve met up or have confirmation they are genuine then you may feel more comfortable to talk to them on another channel. But don’t feel pressured to give them your phone number if you don’t feel ready.

You are so open an honest!
Catfish profiles (or messages sent on Social Media) tend to be very full on, giving away the hopes of the relationship they seek from start to finish. If there is an over use of the words loyal, genuine, trustworthy or ‘God fearing’, looking for a soulmate and someone to marry with the love of children, this should alert you. Genuine profiles are usually fun and only hinting at what you are like and looking for. 

It’s all about you and too good to be true…
If you reply to a message and it’s a Catfish, the chances are you will be ‘love bombed’.  They ask lots of questions about you but don’t give much information in return. They are reading you at this point, taking notes, earning your trust. Often fraudsters will spend time looking at your social media profiles and pictures to get to know you better so it seems like they are your perfect match and you have lots in common. They will fall head over heels for you very quickly and will be very full on from an early stage. This aims to get the other person ‘hooked’ as quickly as possible. It may seem like you’ve found your soulmate and your perfect partner but it’s best to edge on the side of caution. If things seem too good to be true, it’s likely they are!  You may hear phrases like:

‘I can’t believe we’ve been so lucky to find one another…’ Many will tell you they’ve never experienced that level of connection with someone else before.

It may seem like they are genuinely interested in you but it’s best to be a little cautious if they are asking question after question but keeping their own details private. Dating is about getting to know another person – if they’re genuine and have nothing to hide they shouldn’t be afraid to answer your questions. Things should move slowly…

Reverse psychology
Do they over emphasise how honest, loyal and committed they are? If so, this could be a warning they’re a fraudster, as they’re using reverse psychology. This plays a big part in their game. It throws you off guard and has you doubting yourself.

Mine told me how he thought ‘cheaters’ were disgusting (he knew it had happened to me before), he said of a friend who’s boyfriend was caught sending emails to someone else, ‘tell her to get rid of him babe, he’s a baddun’. This all consolidated in my mind (as we sat watching a movie, munching on cashews) that he would never do that to me. Little did I know that as we spoke, he was doing exactly this to his wife and several other women as well.

Money, money, money…
Asking for money will soon follow if they are a scammer. They may be subtle or outright. Cover stories will tell of a difficult time or disaster.  Good people falling on hard times. But anyone asking for money that you haven’t met in person or know well is not someone to be chatting with, however big the disaster. They play on kind people.

Sextortion or Personal Catfish.
Similarly to money, anyone asking for intimate photos, videos (or webcams) before you meet would be considered disrespectful of someone really interested in a proper relationship. This may start with them asking for ‘sexy chat’ but will progress quickly. Although sex was part of the motivation for mine too, he was very different in that he was patient and had read me well, there was never a push on me for anything. He evolved his tactics to suit the target. 

Some are just in this for the thrill of the power, deception and control over someone else whilst playing their games. These are harder to spot BUT… if your gut instinct says something isn’t right then listen!

Not everyone who exhibits the above traits and warning signs is a catfish, but it’s best to be sure.

 Be safe.
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