Calling Catfish – How to Spot a Fake
Don’t get us wrong, the internet can be a beautiful place – but sometimes, some people unfortunately aren’t who they say they are. It could be someone you’ve met in an MMORPG or a ‘friend of a friend’ on Twitter, you just never know. We got our heads together to share our top tips for debunking a catfish.
Catfishing is when someone uses a different identity in order to trick another person into believing that they’re that person online (sneaky, right!?). A catfish lies about who they are, often going to extreme lengths to continue their lie. They tend to use social networks like Facebook, Instagram and different types of online forums. Various things motivate these people, mostly it’s because they are desperately trying to hide who they actually are; they might have self-esteem and confidence issues. Here are some things we advise you look out for to keep yourself safe, but basically if it’s all sounding a bit fishy, it probably is!
- Do a reverse image Google search. This is a quick and easy background check. Right-click their photos, copy the URL, and paste in the box at images.google.com. Google will then search for other sources of that image online. If nothing is found, try a few photos and see what crops up. Don’t forget that Instagram images aren’t indexed so Google won’t be able to search them. If you’re talking on an app like Tinder or Grindr, there’s an app you can download that does the same job called Veracity.
- Google it. There’s a lot to be said for Googling names other than your own. See if you can find any credible information about them. If there’s nothing, that should raise alarm bells.
- Language. We all make silly spelling mistakes (especially when autocorrect is involved), but if they’re making strange grammar and odd spelling mistakes continuously, (that would drive your primary school english teacher cray-zay) proceed with caution.
- Money. Lending a fiver to your best mate for lunch is one thing, but if your new online ‘buddy’ is already asking you for money to get their car fixed so they can come and visit you, whilst promising to pay you back ‘later’. Let’s be honest, they won’t (you’re not a bank).
- Check their check-ins. Everyone should have some sort of indication on their Facebook profile that they have a life outside their computer. We’ve all checked in somewhere on Facebook with friends or family, be it that time you went to Barcelona, or just your local Pizza Express. If they’re lagging in the check in’s then be warned they probably spent all their time on the internet fishing around.
- ..and their posts. Everyone gets a post from someone every now and then, even if it’s from your great aunty sharing a funny meme. If no one has posted on their wall to wish them a happy birthday or shared anything with them then this has got to be a cause for concern.
- …and their photos. There’s nothing wrong with having photos of yourself on your profile (it is your profile after all), but if they don’t have any photos with their friends or family and it’s mostly photos of themselves at weird angles with bad lighting, then something’s up; are they even tagged in other friends’ photos?
- … and their mates. Do you have any mutual friends? If so, can they vouch for them? If they only have a handful of random contacts, it’s usually a telltale sign.
- Get real. If it seems too good to be true – it probably is (sorry to be bursting the bubble). Watch out, if it’s all getting a bit too serious, too soon and they’re making obscure promises, get the hint. They aren’t going to fly you to the Caribbean and David Beckham most definitely doesn’t send random people friend requests. Sorry, move on.
- Got the story straight? Make sure everything they’re telling you adds up (trust your gut instinct). Conflicting information is a sign their whole identity is built on lies, so it’s hard to always keep the story straight.
- Skype ‘em. If they don’t want to Skype, Facetime or even Snapchat, this is a big red flag. It’s an easy excuse to spot because they are hiding their true identity, so beware.
- Watch out for elaborate stories e.g., lies. Catfishes tell outrageous lies which are often a dead give-a-way. A Catfish may well claim to be a model or work in the music industry. This will create little niggling doubts in your mind, listen to them!
Ultimately, if you’re doubting it – you’re most likely right about them. None of the above methods are fool-proof, but they can give you a good indication as to how credible somebody is. If you are going to meet up with someone online, we would strongly recommend you did it in a public place, in the daytime and took somebody with you or had them within close proximity. Never go without telling an adult first. We’d also advise against sexting with someone you’ve never met before, we hear a lot of horror stories from people who have been talking to someone they don’t know.
What to do if you’ve called Catfish?
- Try talking to them. You could try and reason with them to encourage them to axe the pretence and to come out as themselves.
- Axe it. We’d recommend blocking them from all of your social media and phone.
- Report it. It’s actually a criminal offence to Catfish. It’s impersonation and fraudulent and people can get into a lot of trouble for it, especially if they have bad intentions. Report their profiles to social networks, even if it’s just to look out for somebody else. If it’s really serious, report it to the Police.
- Tell an adult. If you’re scared of getting into trouble, it could be somebody who you don’t know – like a Ditch the Label mentor or somebody over at Childline. It’s important to document it.
- Mutual mates? Tell them. They have a right to know too.
Sometimes it happens, but we learn from our mistakes and move on. If you need any further advice or support, please do get in touch. We’ve got your back.