Introduction to Catphishing
Over the last decade or so, online dating has become a significant part of mainstream culture, giving people the chance to connect with potential partners from all over the world. However, with the rise of this type of dating, particularly when it comes to long-distance relationships that are conducted almost entirely online, there has also been an increase in catphishing scams.
Catphishing, or catfishing, is a type of online scam where someone creates a fake online persona to lure unsuspecting victims into a relationship or a fraudulent scheme. It can have a broad range of repercussions for the victim, including financial losses and identity theft that is either personal or associated with the victim's workplace, alongside significant emotional trauma that can leave the victim struggling with mental health issues.
This article explores the signs of catphishing scams, how to prevent yourself from falling victim to them, and what to do if you have been targeted. Learn more about exactly what catphishing is and how to protect yourself from potential harm and avoid becoming a victim.
What Is Catphishing?
A catphishing scam is a type of online deception where someone creates a fake persona on a dating app or social media platform in order to form a relationship with an unsuspecting victim. The catphisher often pretends to be someone they are not, using a fake name, pictures, and personal information to create an attractive and convincing persona.
They may use emotional manipulation and flattery to further establish a connection, often exchanging fake personal details such as photos and stories that give the victim the sense they are speaking to a real person.
Ultimately, however, a cat phisher’s goal is to convince their victim to send them money or personal information, which can be used to either steal the victim’s identity, commit financial fraud, or engage in other online or real-world crimes. This can be financially devastating for victims, with information such as bank account details, social security numbers, or credit card information often targeted.
However, the emotional trauma caused by catphishing can be equally devastating. In most cases, catphishers engage in intense emotional manipulation and the creation of a false sense of intimacy, which may lead the victim to develop feelings of love or deep attachment to their catfisher, only to discover that the person they thought they knew was not real.
Betrayal, anger, a sense of loss or grief, shame or embarrassment are common feelings for victims, with the potential for long-lasting effects on a victim's ability to trust others and form meaningful relationships.
Common Signs you may be Getting Catphished
For those engaging in online dating or other online relationships, it’s important to understand the tell-tale signs of potential catphishing scams. However, since catphishers usually employ sophisticated methods of emotional manipulation, it may take time for you to realize that you are the victim of a scam. Keep the following signs in mind in your online interactions, and always be wary about sharing personal information.
- The person refuses to meet in person or engage in a video chat — Catphishers often create fake personas and don't want to reveal their true identity.
- They have a limited online presence or their social media accounts appear to be fake — If you can't find any information about the person online or if their accounts look suspicious, this could be a sign that they are not who they claim to be.
- They ask for money or financial support — Catphishers often use emotional manipulation to convince their victims to send them money, gifts, or other financial support.
- They have inconsistent or unrealistic stories — Catphishers often make up elaborate stories to gain the sympathy and trust of their victims. If their stories seem too good to be true, or if they are inconsistent or don't add up, this could be a red flag.
- They avoid answering personal questions — If the person you are talking to seems hesitant to answer personal questions, or if their answers seem evasive or vague, this could be a sign that they are hiding something.
- They seem too good to be true — If the person you are talking to seems too perfect or too good to be true, this could be a sign that they are not who they claim to be. Catphishers often create fake personas that are designed to be attractive and appealing to their victims.
How to Protect Yourself from Catphishing
Understanding the signs of a catphishing scam will allow you to take steps to protect yourself when building relationships online, and by following the tips below, you can prevent yourself from becoming a victim.
- Be cautious when engaging with people online — Don't assume that everyone you meet online is who they claim to be. Be on the lookout for red flags and be wary of people who ask for money or personal information.
- Do your research — Use search engines and social media to try and verify the identity of the person you are talking to. If you can't find any information about them online or if their social media accounts look suspicious, this could be a sign that they are not who they claim to be.
- Never provide personal information or financial support to someone you have met online — Unless you are absolutely certain that they are who they claim to be, sharing things like your bank account details, social security number, or credit card information to people online is a big red flag.
- Use secure communication channels — Avoid using email or unencrypted messaging apps to communicate with people you have met online. Instead, use secure messaging apps or video chat platforms that provide end-to-end encryption.
- Don't let your guard down too quickly — Catphishers often use emotional manipulation and flattery to gain the trust and affection of their victims. Be cautious and take time getting to know someone before developing a deep emotional connection with them.
What to Do if You’ve Been Catphished
If you have been a victim of catphishing, it’s important to remember that you are not alone, and there are many support groups and advisory resources out there to help you deal with both the financial and emotional impact of this type of scam. Additionally, if you come to realize you are part of a catphishing scam, you should follow the steps below:
- Cut off all communication with the catfisher — If you've been talking to someone online who you suspect is a catfisher, stop all communication with them immediately. Block their phone number, email address, and social media accounts, and delete any messages or emails they have sent you.
- Change your passwords — If you've shared any personal information with the catfisher, such as your email address or passwords, change them immediately. This will help prevent the catfisher from accessing any of your personal accounts or information.
- Report the catphishing scam to the appropriate authorities — You can report the scam to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) or your local law enforcement agency. Be sure to provide as much information as possible, including any messages, emails, or phone numbers the catfisher used to contact you.
- Seek support from friends, family, or mental health professionals — Being catphished can be emotionally traumatic, and it's important to have a support system in place to help you process your feelings and begin the healing process.
- Be cautious in the future — Catphishing scams are becoming more common, so it's important to be cautious when engaging with people online. Follow the tips outlined in the previous section to help protect yourself from future scams.
How to Prevent Catphishing
Preventing catphishing scams requires vigilance and caution when interacting with people online. However, there are a few simple and effective ways to avoid this type of scam and protect yourself. Additionally, you can enroll in a security awareness training & user behavior course to boost your knowledge of internet scams and enjoy greater protection.
One of the easiest ways to avoid catphishing is to verify the identity of the person you're talking to before sharing any personal information. Use search engines and social media to try and confirm that the person is who they say they are. Be cautious if you can't find any information about them online or if their social media profiles look suspicious.
Another good tip is to use apps and software you trust that are widely recognized as secure. Catphishers often use unencrypted messaging apps or email to communicate with their victims. Use secure messaging apps or video chat platforms that provide end-to-end encryption to protect yourself. This will help keep your conversations private and secure and can make it harder for catphishers to gain access to your personal information.
Finally, Catphishers may try to gain your trust by asking for personal information or financial support. Be cautious of anyone who asks for things like your bank account details, social security number, or credit card information. Never provide this information unless you are absolutely certain that the person is who they claim to be.
Bottom Line: Catphishing
Catphishing can have devastating consequences for its victims, both financial and emotional, and protecting yourself online with the points we have covered is highly important when trying to avoid this type of scam. Often, catphishers will use social media and dating apps to create fake personas and develop relationships, however, email is also a popular method of catphishing, and you should be vigilant during working hours too.
Cyber security awareness training for employees can help those within your organization identify and report catphishing scams and educate them on other cybersecurity attacks that pose a threat to your organization. For more information on how Mimecast can help you educate and raise awareness within your organization, contact us today and explore our blog for more industry insights.