What You Need to Know About Catfishing and Internet Dating Frauds

What is Catfishing?

Have you heard of catfishing, romance scams, and internet dating frauds. But don’t know what they are or how to protect yourself from them?

As we embrace technology, especially when it comes to social interaction. We have become increasingly vulnerable to online predators taking advantage through fraudulent activity. This type of fraud has been called “catfishing” – someone pretending to be someone else online for nefarious reasons. Unfortunately, as the world has adjusted to living in a digital age. So has the tactics of catfishing, romance scam, and other types of internet dating frauds.

Romance scammers often pose as someone else on dating websites and social media platforms to trick people out of money and cause even more emotional damage. Unfortunately, even well-informed individuals can become victims if unaware of the warning signs.

When looking for romance online, it’s essential to know the signs and strategies to protect yourself from individuals looking to take advantage of you financially or emotionally. In this article, we’ll discuss what you need to know about catfishing and other internet dating frauds so that you can stay safe while searching for love.

Why is it called catfishing?

The term “catfishing” origin story is quite interesting. The name of this romance scam refers both to the literal action of catfishing—hooking unsuspecting catfish in the water—and to Nev Schulman’s 2010 documentary of the same name. But you may be more familiar with the MTV series that ran for eight seasons. The film and the series document the truths and lies of online dating.

In the documentary, Vince, one of the characters, explains how when cod is transported from Alaska to China, the meat becomes tasteless by the time it reaches its destination. So to keep the cod active and agile, fishermen put live catfish in the tanks. “And there are those people who are catfish in life,” Vince continues. “And they keep you on your toes. They keep you guessing.” This analogy perfectly captures how some people use false identities online to deceive others into believing they are someone else entirely. It also serves as a reminder that we should always be wary when interacting with strangers online and take steps to protect ourselves from potential scams or frauds. There are several types of romance scams, such as military romance scams, fake dating sites, and intimate video and photo scams. Let’s explore them further below.

What is a romance scam?

A romance scam is a type of fraud involving an individual using a dating website or app to create a false romantic relationship with another person to gain their trust and ultimately steal money from them. It typically begins when someone meets someone special on a dating platform and quickly wants to move the conversation off the platform, often claiming it’s true love.  

Romance scams can be difficult to spot as scammers are often very convincing and involve their victims with pre-fabricated messages to gain their affection. When dating online, be Aware of the signs and be fully Mindful and fully present. When someone asks for your personal information, activate your Inner Cyber. Wait to give out any personal information or money until you have verified who you are talking to. If something seems too good to be true, it probably is – so stay safe and trust your Inner Cyber instincts!

The scammer may also ask for personal information such as bank account details or passwords. It is important to remember that if someone you meet online starts asking for money, it is likely that they are not who they say they are, and it is best to end all communication with them immediately.

Who are Military Romance Scammers?

Military romance scams are a growing problem, with fraudsters using the name and likeness of an actual soldier or creating an entirely fake profile. They send out messages that appear to be legitimate, often introducing themselves as near the end of their careers, with older children and typically widowed under tragic circumstances. The notes are filled with military jargon, titles, and base locations to make them sound impressive.

The scammers then start to build a strong emotional connection with their victims before requesting money for various reasons, such as setting up a reliable internet connection, paying for flights home, or supplementing supposed limitations on military medical coverage or retirement planning. Sometimes, these scammers work with accomplices who pose as doctors or lawyers to extract a steady stream of money from their victims.

Why are Intimate Photo and Video Scams Dangerous? 

Intimate activity scams are a particularly insidious form of fraud. Victims are contacted by potential suitors living abroad and “friended” on multiple social media sites. Then, after an intense courtship period, the scammer asks the victim to connect with them via webcam so that they can chat. 

The fraudster’s webcam is mysteriously broken, but they heap praise on their victim and, through a combination of flattery and persistence, convince their “partner” to partially undress or perform other intimate acts.

Once the scammer reveals their true identity, they claim to have made a video recording of the intimate activities and threaten to share it with mutual social media friends or post it online unless the victim sends money. If the victim complies with this demand, the cycle begins – demands increase until the victim finally refuses. This scam is particularly damaging as it preys on victims’ vulnerability and trust to extort money from them. As a result, victims may feel embarrassed or ashamed about what has happened and be reluctant to seek help or report it to authorities.

Watch out for Fake Dating Sites

Fake dating sites are a growing problem in the online dating world and contributing to the success of romance scams. These sites claim to offer legitimate meetups but are often severely underpopulated or awash with scammers. 

A popular scam in these fake dating sites involves asking the victims to create a profile to mine their information. For example, asking for answers to your common security questions like your mother’s maiden name or your first school. Some free online dating sites may seem legitimate at first. But will reveal their true colors once you’ve been a member for a while. You may receive an offer for a free premium membership or some other exclusive perk in exchange for completing a survey that contains similar questions to those used for banking.

Be Aware of these scams and take precautions when using online dating services. You should never reveal any information that can be used to access private or financial details, no matter the incentives you are offered. Be sure to read the terms and conditions of any site before signing up, and always use caution when sharing personal information with someone you don’t know. Suppose you suspect a dating site is not legitimate. In that case, it is best to avoid it altogether and look for a more reputable service.

Code Verification Scams

Code verification scams are a common type of scam that is often seen on Tinder. These scams involve an email or text message. Asking you to verify your Tinder account, claiming that the app is updating its records. In some cases, an online Tinder match may also ask for verification before engaging in any further communication. 

The scammer will try to encourage you to click on a third-party link to verify your account. And provide personal data such as your name, address, phone number, email, Social Security number, birth date, and even bank account or credit card details.

These code verification scams can be dangerous, leading to identity theft and financial loss. It is essential to be aware and mindful of these types of scams and never provide any personal information when asked for it by someone you don’t know. Suppose you receive a suspicious request for verification. In that case, it is best to contact the company directly through their official website. Or customer service line instead of clicking on any links provided in the message.

How to Spot Catfishing?

The catfish will often use photos of someone else and create a false identity to lure their victims into trusting them. They may also ask for money or personal information from their victims.

It can be challenging to spot a catfish, but there are some warning signs that you should look out for. For example, if the person you are starting to date refuses to video chat or meet in person after talking online for an extended period.

Additionally, it’s a warning sign if the person you are dating online tells you they love you after only talking for a couple of days or weeks. Suppose they seem overly eager to get your financial information or ask to send or receive money from you. This could be a red flag and a sign that they are trying to scam you. Finally, if they have multiple profiles on different sites with different names, and their pictures don’t match up with the ones on their dating profile. Or on the contrary, if you’ve searched their names on the internet, and they don’t exist. Suppose any of these signs apply to someone you are talking to online. In that case, it may be best to take extra precautions and investigate further before getting too involved in the relationship. 

Common Lies Romance Scammers Tell

Watch out for these four common lies fakers will try to convince you upon:

  1. They’re working on an oil rig.
  2. They’re doctors in an international organization.
  3. They’re working on a construction project outside of the U.S. 
  4. They make up stories about why they can’t visit, and even if the trip is booked and paid, they cancel at the last minute. They may claim to be detained by customs, have an emergency that requires them to stay where they are, or claim accident/illness-related stories.

Have you been a catfishing victim?

Being a victim of cybercrime, identity theft, or scam is a terrible experience, and unfortunately, it happens all too often. I knew it first hand when my identity nightmare story occurred in 2006. It almost ruined my life, career, mental health, and well-being.

If you think you have been a victim. The first step is to take a moment to breathe and practice self-compassion. You didn’t do anything wrong nor deserve what happened. Catfishing and romance scams are profitable illegal businesses. These cons are trained to deceive people.

Then, take charge of the situation and report them to the website, app, or social media site where the scammer first approached you. Let them know the scammer’s profile name. And any other details that may help them to stop others from being scammed. It is also important to contact your bank or financial institution immediately. If you think you have provided your account details to the faker.

I learned that helping others prevent becoming a victim helps us cope with the loss while empowering and encouraging us to regain our power. Hackers, scammers, and Cybermonsters shouldn’t be allowed to ruin our lives. Becoming cyber-savvy changed my life. Today, I’m passionate about teaching Cybersecurity and Cyber Safety Practices. So that you can become cyber-savvy and protect yourself and your loved ones online. 

Check out our podcast Cyber Mindful with Sandra. And the resources available to regain your power and take charge of your cyber life. 

You got this!

You may also like to read :- How To Spot and STOP Browser Hijacking

Uncovering the Different Types of Scams and How to Protect Yourself Online

Live Happily Ever Cyber!

Sandra Estok, CEO and Founder of Way2Protect | Happily Ever Cyber!

Sandra Estok

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