A catfish is an individual who creates a false identity online by using someone else's pictures, details and other pieces of information, and then engages in conversations with people in order to establish a false sense of intimacy. This is often done for a variety of reasons, including financial gains, revenge, and for personal enjoyment.
The term ‘catfish’ originates from the 2010 documentary film of the same name which follows the story of Nev Schulman (a photographer from New York), who is corresponding with Abbie, a woman he has developed an online relationship with, despite actually never meeting her. As his relationship with Abbie develops he becomes suspicious about her authenticity, and so begins a journey to discover who she really is. It was during this time that Schulman discovered that Abbie was actually another young man taking on a different identity online.
Although the term ‘catfish’ originally came from the 2010 documentary film it has now become a term used to describe a person who creates a false online identity. Catfishers are often people who have little or no real-life friends, and the false persona they portray in a conversation gives them a way of connecting to someone without revealing their true identity.
In some cases, the individual engaging in catfishing will invite the person they are talking too to a face to face meeting, however normally this is done in an attempt to protect their own identity and/or gain something from it. For example, in most cases a catfisher will start off the conversation by claiming to be an attractive person in an attempt to gain access to financial resources, undeserved admiration, and other advantages. This is particularly common among scammers from certain countries, such as Nigeria, who use this method to acquire money from unsuspecting individuals.
Although the majority of catfishing does involve a person lying about their identity, this is not always the case. Some individuals might have an authentic online presence but be influenced or driven by a hidden agenda. This is known as ‘doxxing’, which is a form of online harassment where personal information is collected and shared online without people’s consent.
In today’s digital age, it is becoming increasingly difficult to know what’s real online and what’s not. With the marvel of modern technology it only takes a few clicks to find someone’s name, phone number, address, and social media accounts, making it much easier to be misled by an individual posing as someone they are not.
It is important to note that each person does not engage in catfishing for the same reason. Some may do it for financial gains, some for revenge and some for personal pleasure. It’s therefore very difficult to know exactly why someone is creating a false identity. That being said, some signs to look out for include:
- Unusable pictures - rather than their own pictures, a catfisher may use stock photos or pictures taken from the internet
- Unusual language - the person may use language that consistently fails to make sense or sounds incoherent
- Limited information - the individual will usually provide very little information about themselves, or they may provide conflicting information
- Awkward interactions - they might ask a lot of questions, or make uncomfortable requests
When it comes to responding to someone you think might me a catfisher it is important to remain vigilant and never give away any personal information such as credit card numbers or passwords. They may also become hostile and angry if their lies are exposed, so it is best to end the conversation immediately and delete any messages sent.
Catfishing can be a dangerous and potentially devastating activity, and it is important to know how to spot the signs in order to ensure that you stay safe online. Being aware and extra cautious may help you to avoid being deceived by someone pretending to be someone they are not.