Catfish’ was a term coined after a highly successful (and quite accidental) documentary produced back in 2010. It follows an unwitting guy, who’s looking for love, as he falls in love online with a woman who turns out to be fake.

The concept spread like wildfire as so many other online dating hopefuls connected this story with their own personal experiences. So popular, in fact, that the word ‘Catfish’ was added to the Merriam-Webster dictionary:

Catfish (noun); “refers to a person who sets up a false social networking profile for deceptive purposes.”

Catfish are smart, creative and will go to great lengths, including using fake photos, names and possibly, even faking their entire lives to hook you in. As this phenomenon is something that is not uncommon in online dating – we better protect ourselves against these agile catfish. Let’s go!

How To Spot Em’

1. Photos

This is the number one indicator of a Catfish. Typically, the preferred method of Catfishing is to take photos from a popular, or even famous, Instagram or Facebook profile and use them as their own. So be on the look out for clues. Are all their photos selfies? Do their photos look extremely professional and photoshopped? What about friends? Are there any in their photos?

2. Willingness to Communicate

If the person you’ve been talking to isn’t flexible enough to talk to you beyond messaging then something might be up. Maybe if they Skype you’ll notice they are different from their photos. Or maybe, if you call them on the phone you’ll learn that they’re really a man or woman (it happens).

3. Grandiose Stories

If you’ve seen the TV series “Catfish”, then you know that Catfish have great imaginations. You’ve got to be realistic enough to recognize implausibility when you see it. That swimsuit model you’re talking to isn’t planning to leave everything in Paris, France behind to move to Texas to be with you.

4. Friends and Family

If the person you are talking to is real they won’t even think twice about having anything to hide. If you are friends on Facebook or Instagram, then you will notice they have friends and family who are active on their accounts or even tagged in photos. That’s normal. And if that’s not the case, well, you might be dealing with a Catfish, not someone looking for a serious relationship.

5. Asking for Money

When you fall for someone, you want to help them in every way possible. That’s okay in a real relationship, but if the person you have been chatting with online or even just on the phone ever asks you for money, that’s what we call a Catfish!

How To Catch Em’

1. Reverse Image Search

If you suspect your online lover is using someone else’s photo there is an easy way to check. Simply, save that photo to your computer, go to Google Image Search where you can click the upload icon to use the photo in question. If that photo has any matches on the internet Google Image Search will find it. Possibly it is attached to some rapper’s Instagram or maybe it’s the real deal.

2. Phone Number Search

If the person you are talking to claims to live in New York, then their phone number should probably be a New York area code, right? Go to the White Pages online, type in their phone number and a relative location will pop up. If you are willing to pay a whopping 95 cents, you can go to to get a more in-depth report.

3. Ask For A Selfie

Some Catfish are really good at what they do! If they’ve managed to pass the previous tests, you can ask for a personalized photo. Maybe they say, “Oh, I’m at a baseball game with a friend.” This is a perfect chance to ask for a selfie on the spot. If they are indeed using someone else’s photos, what are the chances they’ll have this fake baseball photo waiting in their back pocket? Or if you want to be a real detective, ask for a super specific selfie like of them touching their nose to their elbow. Can’t fake that.

4. Skype

Ask them to Skype with you and see what happens. If the person who you are falling for refuses to Skype or if they consistently make an excuse like “oh, my camera isn’t working”, they’re probably a Catfish! It’s 2018- who doesn’t have a camera on their phone or their laptop?

5. Meet Up

Duh. I’m sure you’ve thought of this. But the key here is to differentiate between someone’s busy schedule and their Mary Poppins’ bag of excuses. Often a Catfish will make plans with you to convince you that they don’t have anything to hide, and at the last minute they will come up with some crazy excuse. If this becomes a repeated move- it’s time to move on.

So, what could possibly motivate people to do something so hurtful and immature? The answers might surprise you. Some people are afraid they won’t be loved for who they are and may be rejected. Some people are in a relationship and now you are their secret affair. Other times, people are just cruel and bored. You need to be on the look out for these red flags, and never be afraid to confront them as they come. Don’t be a fool – this is your life, your future and there is no room for a Catfish.

Make sure you join a dating site with validated, genuine profiles and a comprehensive online safety policy. From Zoosk to Match and eHarmony, know these are established dating sites that you can trust.  

Dana Simmons
Dana was determined to find that special someone. Years of being single made her reluctant to believe salvation would come from the online environment. Now a married woman and a mother of two, Dana’s an advocate of online dating sites and is passionate on writing about their success. Dana is a regular contributing writer to the Top 5 Dating Sites blog.
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