Catfishing: Meaning and what to do if you are being catfished?

Catfishing: Meaning and what to do if you are being catfished?

Catfishing refers to the act of creating a fake identity online by using false information and images with the intention of deceiving, harassing, or scamming others. This fraudulent activity is commonly found on social media platforms and dating apps, where individuals establish online relationships under false pretenses, sometimes to engage in financial scams.

The person behind the fake identity, known as the “catfish,” may also engage in sextortion by obtaining intimate images from their victims and using them to extort or blackmail them. Alternatively, they may exploit other personal information shared with them to commit identity theft.

The term “catfishing” is believed to have originated from the 2010 documentary “Catfish,” which featured a young man named Nev Schulman who began an online relationship with someone who turned out to be an older woman posing as a teenager named “Megan.”

People engage in catfishing for various reasons, but a lack of confidence is the most common motive, according to the Cybersmile Foundation. Individuals who are dissatisfied with themselves may find solace in pretending to be someone more attractive to gain the attention and admiration of others.

Other reasons for catfishing include trolling, pursuing relationships outside of existing ones, or engaging in extortion and harassment. Some people may also catfish to explore their own sexual preferences.

Studies have found that catfish are more likely to be educated men, with religious backgrounds possibly providing an avenue for forming relationships that aren’t constrained by real-life circumstances. Certain personality traits, such as sadism, psychopathy, and narcissism, have also been linked to a higher likelihood of engaging in catfishing.

Romance scams resulting from catfishing have resulted in significant financial losses globally, with reported losses reaching millions of dollars each year. Victims in the United States, United Kingdom, and Singapore have reported substantial financial losses due to catfishing scams.

Catfishing also occurs on an industrial scale in the form of “cyber scam centers” linked to human trafficking in Southeast Asia, according to INTERPOL. Victims of trafficking are forced to create fake social media accounts and dating profiles to scam people worldwide, often targeting them through fake cryptocurrency investment schemes.

Notably, catfishing is prevalent among both adults on dating sites and teenagers using social media platforms, according to the Cybersmile Foundation. Research indicates that young people, particularly LGBTQ+ individuals, are frequently targeted by catfish or hackers seeking to obtain private images for extortion.

Recognizing the signs of catfishing is essential to protect oneself. Common indicators include unsolicited contact, excessive compliments to build trust, avoidance of video or phone calls, limited social media activity, inconsistent stories, and quickly escalating emotions or requests for sensitive images and money.

If you suspect you have been catfished, experts recommend questioning the person directly, stopping all communication, securing your online accounts, and reporting the incident to the appropriate authorities. Seeking professional support from counselors and building a support network can also help alleviate the emotional impact of being catfished.

While catfishing itself may not be a crime, associated actions such as extortion, harassment, and identity theft are considered criminal offenses in many jurisdictions. However, the cross-border nature of online fraud poses challenges for law enforcement in terms of jurisdiction and gathering evidence.

To protect oneself against catfishing, individuals are advised to secure their online accounts, use two-factor authentication, exercise caution when engaging in financial activities online, utilize virtual private networks for internet browsing, and educate themselves about the risks associated with sharing personal information online.

Parents should communicate with their children about online risks and teach them how to report and block catfish accounts. Additionally, it is essential to consider children’s rights when it comes to sharing their pictures and personal content online.

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