Catfishing

Catfishing is when a person sets up a false profile on a social networking or dating website for abuse, deception, or fraud. Catfishing is often employed for romance scams on dating websites.

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5 min read

Reading time icon

5 min read

What is catfishing?

A catfish is a person who sets up a false personal profile on a social networking or dating site for fraudulent or deceptive purposes. Generally speaking the goal of catfishing is financial or material, however catfishing techniques could be employed to gain privileged access to, or information from, a business.  

Origin of the term

A catfish is a person who sets up a false personal profile on a social networking or dating site for fraudulent or deceptive purposes. Generally speaking the goal of catfishing is financial or material, however catfishing techniques could be employed to gain privileged access to, or information from, a business.

Interview with a victim of catfishing

Watch this space for an interview with a real victim of catfishing. His story helps shed some light on how anyone could get caught out by this kind of scam…

Catfishing and online dating statistics

ESET conducted research seeking to uncover the cybersecurity habits of 2,000 people across the UK when it comes to online dating and being safe online. 

  • 55% of over 55s worry more about their cyber security than 16 to 24-year-olds
  • 52% say loneliness around Valentine’s Day makes them vulnerable to catfishers
  • 41% of consumers believe that they face more cyber security risks when online dating around Valentine’s Day
  • 29% of respondents said they carried out basic background searches on the people they talk to on dating sites - whether this is searching on Facebook, Google, Twitter, or other platforms
  • The number drops dramatically in older age ranges, as less than one in five (18%) of over-55s say that they carry out background searches, making them more likely to be catfished
  • This is regardless of the fact that 69% of respondents say they are concerned about their online security
  • 13% admitting that using online dating sites or apps makes them more vulnerable

How can you spot a catfish?

The sheer number of profiles found on dating sites, combined with the speed at which online relationships can develop, provides an ideal breeding ground for catfish - people who pretend to be someone they’re not in order to scam and exploit those looking for love. The consequences of this can be extreme, as scammers may steal their victims’ identities, lure them into dangerous situations, or defraud them of thousands of pounds.

Yet, very few people know what to do to help minimise the risks of online dating. While some catfish scams are very sophisticated, you often don’t need to be an expert to recognise them. This can be as quick and easy as searching the name of the individual on another social media site or search engine, or refusing to exchange sensitive personal information over the internet.

If someone you’ve never met in person asks you for money, alarm bells should start ringing immediately. Catfishers are excellent storytellers and can tell a very convincing tale about why they need the money. They will remain focused on your emotions, so it is vital to stay detached when money is at stake. It might be a small request at first- like the cost of a train ticket to come and see you- but typically, once they know you’re willing to give them cash, the frequency and amount will rise. Never send money to anyone you haven’t met and if they are genuine, they will understand.

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