What is Catfishing?

What is Catfishing?
4 Tips To Prevent You Being Catfished On Tinder

Social media and online dating apps have made it easier than ever to connect with people, however some people aren't always truthful about who they are.

Catfishing is when someone creates a fake profile on social media often using another person's photos and personal information such as their name and date of birth, in order to intentionally attract people.

There can be a number of motivations behind this. Some of the deceptive reasons include: financial gain, to upset the victim, to compromise the victim, or to satisfy of their desires.

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Although catfishing is not a criminal offence, if a catfish elicits money from their victim this is a romance scam which is a criminal activity.

Around 24,000 people were victims of romance scams in the US in 2021, according to the FBI, while in the UK almost £92 million has been lost through dating scams in 2021 alone, with 8,863 cases of romance fraud were reported to National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) in November 2020 and October 2021.

The term "catfishing" was first used in this context back in 2010 in a documentary called Catfish which followed the film's executive producer Nev Schulman who had been a victim of catfishing after discovering his girlfriend, Megan, wasn't real and he was actually messaging an artist named Angela.

It was Angela's husband Vince who noted how his wife behaviour was similar to a catfish, noting the myth that catfish were shipped in the same tanks as cod in order to keep the quality of the cod good, as without the catfish, the cod was "mush and tasteless."

"And there are those people who are catfish in life. And they keep you on your toes. They keep you guessing, they keep you thinking, they keep you fresh. And I thank God for the catfish because we would be droll, boring and dull if we didn't have somebody nipping at our fin," Vince said which inspired the name of the documentary.

Since then Schulman has gone to help other people discover whether they are being catfished in his MTV reality series Catfish: The TV Show which has been on air since 2012.

Kamie Crawford and Nev Schulman hosts of 'Catfish: The TV Show'Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for MTV/Paramount Global)

Catfishing was first recognised by the Oxford Dictionary in 2014, as the word became a common piece of internet terminology.

Catfishing has also appeared in storylines such as Netflix rom-com Love Hard, and most recently on British soap Coronation Street.

Here is some advice on how to spot a catfish online:

  1. They avoid wanting to video call, talk on the phone and meet up in person.
  2. Saying they're in love with you, in the early messaging stages.
  3. A request for money, early on in the relationship.
  4. Do a reverse-image Google search to see if their pictures are real - Schulman often does this in the Catfish show.
  5. Spot if they have photos with friends, and check if they have been tagged.
  6. Check if all their photos online are professional headshots - if this is the case it is more likely they are a catfish.

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