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Bits and Bytes: Catfishing Catastrophe

By Zak Wallace

Catfishing is a deceptive activity where someone lies about who they are online in order to target a person. This may be to initiate a dishonest romantic relationship or to trick the victim into sending them money. Look out for these signs to avoid being a victim of catfishing.


Signs You Are Being Catfished:

Avoiding Calls

Catfishers will never agree to a video chat or to meet in person. They are also unlikely to answer a phone call because that can risk exposing their true identity. For instance, if a man is pretending to be a woman the sound of his voice on a call would reveal him.

A Small Number of Friends and Followers

One of the main purposes of social media is to connect with friends and family. A person having very few followers/friends could be a red flag that they are using their account for manipulative purposes.

A Recently Created Profile

A recently created profile is especially alarming if a person has a low number of friends/followers. This could mean the user has to keep creating new profiles because their accounts are constantly being removed due to fraudulent activity.

Professional/Stolen Pictures

Most people include selfies or photos taken by family and friends on their social media accounts. If you encounter a profile with only professional looking photos, this could be a sign that they are stolen photos from online. To help spot if a photo is stolen, you can use Google reverse image search to find similar pictures. Go to google images, click on the camera icon, upload the catfisher’s picture or paste the picture's URL and begin your search. You can also use and follow a similar process.

No Presence on Other Sites/Apps

These days, many people use various social media apps to stay connected (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.) so it can be alarming if your suspected catfisher is only active on one site or app.

Inquiring about Money

A catfisher will often build trust with their victim and then come up with excuses to seek out financial help. For instance, they may ask for money to help a sick family member.

Inquiring about Money

Someone asking for explicit pictures or videos is a huge, dangerous threat. The catfisher can use these images of you to blackmail you into sending them money or even more of those types of images.


If you see someone send you a friend request that you don’t know, don’t accept it. If someone online who you don’t know well is suddenly trying to get very personal with you, you may be a target. Never give sensitive information or money to someone you don’t know. Even innocent-sounding questions could have other motives to gain information about you and trap you into a deceptive scheme.

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