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What is Catfishing?

With increasing social media presence, terms such as catfishing have come into existence. The name Catfishing was picked from the 2010 documentary film "Catfish", which introduced the term. Catfishing is a behavior where a user pretends to be who they are not.

Catfishing, when done with malicious intent, is a criminal offense. Few of the common reasons people catfish is:

  • Pretend to be another person
  • Make financial gains by duping people
  • Hide identity
  • Cheat over dating sites
  • Create multiple profiles on social media with illegal intent
  • Cyberbullying
  • Damage reputation
  • To gather personal information

While these are a few reasons for catfishing, there are many more. This is more prominent over dating applications where people fake to be another person.

Catfishing can be dangerous where the person might:

  • Lure the victim and kidnap
  • Ask for ransom
  • Damage the reputation of the victim
  • Threaten victim or cyberbully
  • Build trust and gather the victim’s personal information

How to detect Catfishing

In most cases, there is no 100% solution to detect catfishing. These are a few traits which suggest it must be a catfishing.

  • It's too good to be true
  • The person refuses video calls or refuses to meet in person
  • A person tries to invade victims personal space
  • Seek to know more personal information
  • Remain in social isolation
  • Would not share too many details or photos.
  • Would demand money seeking for help usually based on sympathetic grounds
  • Maintains more than one social media profile on the same platform
  • Catfishers usually are secretive about their moves and personal life
  • They may be seen only on one of the social media platform and refuse to show up on any other
  • Social media usage is sparse
  • Would say stories which are unusual and hard to believe
  • Tries to gather sympathy

Most social media platforms add a disclaimer stating the profile needs to be authentic and a person should refrain from adding multiple profiles. However, there are no specific laws around it in most countries. This is one of the reasons, in most cases, catfishing is not detected.

In reality catfishing may not be termed as illegal unless it amounts to one of the following.

  • Copyright Breach: If a catfisher is using a person’s image or any work to showcases as original work, then this can amount to a copyright breach. The person can sue them as per the laws of the country.
  • Impersonation: Impersonation means pretending to be another person. This again as such might not be illegal. However, using if a catfisher tries to gain access to restricted places or gain benefits that can’t be availed, then this can result in legal consequences.
  • Offense: Offences such as child abuse, forgery, and any other criminal activity as per law of land because of catfishing can result in a person behind bars.
  • Defamation: In case the catfisher projects to be someone else by using their photo, name, and other identity details, then the person can place a defamation charge against the catfisher.
  • Cheating & Fraud: Cheating or fraud with catfishing can result in legal consequences.

How to avoid being a victim of catfishing

People involve in catfishing for a several reasons, and they are:

  • For pleasure
  • To gain money
  • To gain undue favors
  • Psychological instability
  • To take revenge
  • Defame a person
  • Attract someone’s attention
  • Misguide people

The list goes on, there are multiple reasons why someone might go around catfishing.

Few precautionary measures help in detecting catfishers at an early stage and best avoid being a victim yourself.

  • Be vigilant while being online
  • Do not accept friend requests from strangers
  • Try to gather more information about a person before accepting an unknown person as a friend
  • Avoid conversation which asks too many personal information in a short duration of time
  • Cut conversations which seek for money or financial aid
  • If you find someone suspicious, immediately block the person and report a misuse
  • Avoid sharing personal contact information, bank account details or social security number
  • If a person refuses to have a video chat or refuses to share personal details, then it's best to avoid
  • Do a background check

A lot of people think catfishing can only happen over dating sites, however, this can also happen over job portals and other places.

Conclusion

Catfishing is a tactic used online to impersonate another person to trick a victim and ask for money or personal information to use in illegal activities. Catfishing is most common in dating sites, but it is also used in cyberbullying, obtaining ransom, and other illegal activities. Catfishers usually use stolen photos of another person to impersonate who they are not, and avoids video chat or face-to-face meeting. If someone is asking for money online, beware you may become a victim of catfishing.

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