How To Avoid Being Catfished

By Nissa Hallquist

January 10, 2024   •   Fact checked by Dumb Little Man

how to protect yourself from catfishing

Being in love feels wonderful. But what isn’t as wonderful is finding out that that feeling is being used to manipulate you for financial gain. That, unfortunately, is an all-too-common occurrence when it comes to meeting and getting to know a potential romance online.

You’ve heard the stories about so-called catfishing, which involves online fraudsters who use charm and a fake identity to fleece victims out of their hard-earned money. When the catfish eventually disappears, the victim is left brokenhearted and, often quite a bit poorer. It’s enough to make anyone cynical about ever finding a real connection online.

It is still, possible, though. The process just requires a bit more realism and due diligence on your part at the beginning before throwing caution to the wind. How do you make sure that an online connection is the real thing and not a catfish? Read on to learn the basic ways for you to find romance online while still protecting yourself and your finances.

Verify The Person’s Info

When you first meet someone online who you’re interested in, a little detective work can help you prove that they are really who they say they are. To do so, simply perform a web search using the name the person has provided.

Doing so may reveal the person’s other social media profiles, news articles in which they’re mentioned, or other online content. Once you’ve determined that the person really exists, then you can corroborate other personal information about your online date, such as where they’re from, where they work, who their friends are, etc.

Does the name not bring up much info? Yes, a lack of online history could simply mean that the person doesn’t spend a lot of time online, or they’re just new to the online scene. On the other hand, it could also mean that the name is a newly created alias.

Confirm Their Profile Picture

protect yourself from catfishing

After you’ve verified their name, you want to make sure that the person’s picture matches the name and profile information they’ve given. You can do this by performing an image search. Extract the person’s profile picture and perform a web search for that image.

What are you looking for? Any other instances of that image online. If that same image appears in association with the person you’ve been talking to online, that’s great. But if that image appears to belong to someone else or can be found on a stock image site, that implies some fakery is going on.

Note Any Questionable Behavior

When you are attracted to someone, and it seems like they feel the same way about you, it can be easy to get caught up in your emotions. But doing so can blind you to odd behaviors that you might otherwise clearly see. Be wary if an online connection:

  • Claims they have romantic feelings for you very quickly after meeting.
  • Flatters you endlessly about your looks, smarts, jokes, etc.
  • Starts telling you hard luck stories about their life.
  • Talks about meeting up…if only they had the money to do so.

Don’t Send Money

protecting yourself from catfishing

Even if you don’t do anything else to vet someone you meet online, any request for money or gifts is your big red flag that you’re about to be scammed. It might not be a direct request for money, but even just the suggestion that you could help them out financially is iffy to say the least.

This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t help someone out if you want to. Just be sure you’re in control of how you help them out. They would love to fly out to meet you as long as you pay for the ticket? Suggest you come to them instead. They’re having trouble paying off some medical bills? You can offer to help by paying the hospital directly.

“Don’t you trust me?” they might ask. No, not yet, should be the gist of your response, which isn’t very romantic, but it’s true. If they fly off the handle or otherwise don’t understand your need to be cautious early on, then they are either a catfish or just not the right person for you. Either way, you have saved yourself from pain down the line, financially, emotionally, or both.

Nissa Hallquist

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