Off the Hook: Protecting Yourself From Catfishing on Dating Websites

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As if dating can’t be stressful enough, some grow concerned about the concept of “catfishing.” Loosely, it’s defined as an elaborate scheme generated by someone who is posing to be someone they are not, whether it’s for the purposes of identity theft, robbing, or ‘setting someone up’ offline.

To save yourself from becoming a victim, you have to approach online dating with due diligence and pay attention to the following information.

Watch for Red Flags

Of course, it’s exciting to be contacted via online dating. Of course, you’re using the site to meet someone, but there’s a likelihood to become a bit vulnerable as you’re hoping for the best. So, as soon as someone contacts you, it’s good to do a bit of investigating. You’re not being creepy; you’re protecting yourself. You could drag the picture of the person into Google Images. Such a search elicits where else that picture exists online, whether it’s a Facebook or LinkedIn profile or scam warning page.

Some potential red flags include not having a Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram account. Alternatively, they may have multiple profiles on the same platform. Also, they’ll have exceptionally low friend counts.

Their shots may look stock image-ish or like modeling shots while they have no pictures of them with friends or engaging in activities. There may be no tags for any of their photos. Also, they may immediately want you to text them or use a different service platform for video conferencing, etc. They also may appear desperate and too quick to ask you for personal information.

Next, look for an abundance of spelling and grammar mistakes. A few mistakes is passable but an obvious weakness for English may signal that they are from another country altogether. You can also copy and paste some of their sentences into Google. If they have scammed others, then it’s likely it has been chronicled by someone as a warning.

Scammers are likely to use the same information for multiple sites rather than take the time to write unique content to multiple victims. Also, they may copy someone’s real picture or information from a legitimate profile. If you see similar pictures or phrases appearing on the same site, then you’re better off ignoring the person and their messages.

Ask Them to Show Face

If you are chatting and things seem to be going well, you should ask them if they would like to meet in person or are willing to have a video chat. If they shy away from meeting in person or being seen via video chat then it’s a cause for concern. If they’re looking for your information or want to lead you into using another service, then they will not want to show their face or be available for a video chat.

Despite the physical distance, it can be easy to begin trusting others and believe you’re forming an online relationship, but don’t make yourself vulnerable regarding casual dating. If you have been talking online for a while then you have to take a step back and wonder why they cannot commit to being seen in person or at least on video chat. There’s no reason why someone interested wouldn’t agree to a brief meeting over coffee in a public place.

Protect Private Information

By all means, protect your private information. For example, if they agree to a video chat but tell you that you have to sign up on a particular platform, then be a bit wary, especially if you have to give personal information and credit card information to the site.

Keep a clear mind, and if you’re suspicious about a request, you probably have good reason for it. You have to treat those online in the same way you would approach strangers in real life. For example, you wouldn’t give your credit card to a complete stranger on the street who was not working as a vendor, etc. You also wouldn’t start a meaningful relationship with someone you met at a bar after an hour’s worth of conversation.

Ask Questions

It’s flattering for someone to be interested and want to know a lot about you, yet don’t forget to be on guard, not revealing too much as well as asking questions about them. If it takes them a long time to respond to reasonable questions or if they seem to contradict a statement made in the past, then be on guard.

Also, if you feel as if the person is not who they say they are or is asking inappropriate questions, then report them to the platform’s web master. You may have been clever enough to see through a person’s ruse but others may not be so lucky; you’ll be helping to protect others and make the site better.

Archie Glover studied psychology at university which lead him to become a relationship therapist first, and more recently a sex therapist. Intrigued by online dating and the modern world of love and romance, or lack of it, he blogs for men’s and women’s lifestyle blogs and relationship sites.