Tips To Avoid Getting Catfished Online

How to figure out if someone is who they say they are


With dating apps like Tinder, Bumble, Grindr, Her, and OkCupid, the way our culture pursues romance has changed. Instead of trying to flirt with strangers at a bar, we can just swipe right from the comfort of our own homes.

However, as easy as online dating may be, it does come with a considerable risk: catfishing. Although we frequently hear about young, naive teenagers being duped online, catfishing can happen to anyone. In fact, anyone who’s been online dating for any length of time has probably dealt with a catfish at one point or another.

One survey revealed that around 1 in 3 people have been catfished online, and 20% of those victims actually sent money to the catfishers.

Any online dating site will give you the option to report a scammer, but many of these apps have no real defenses against catfishers — it’s up to us to figure out who’s fake and who’s real.

And, while spotting some fake profiles might be as easy as identifying the Nigerian prince asking for money, other catfishers are masters of disguise. Even if there’s no completely foolproof way to prevent getting catfished, here are a few tips to help you make sure the person on the other side of the screen is who they say they are:

1. Use Reverse Image Search

The fastest way to figure out if the person you’re messaging with is real is by reverse-image searching their pictures on Google. This will tell you if that cute selfie they sent you has shown up anywhere else online — like a popular model’s Instagram or Twitter page.

Even if the person you’re chatting looks real, you should still reverse-image search their pictures to double-check before you agree to meet them in real life. Taking photos from someone’s Instagram page or Facebook account isn’t difficult, and you’ll save yourself a lot of time and energy if you can identify a catfish early on.

The good news is that conducting a reverse-image search is easy, and if you don’t already know how, here’s a quick step-by-step guide for computers and for phones.

Keep in mind that, while a reverse-image search will turn up a lot of catfishers, it might not catch all of them. These searches hinge on the fact that the photo has been stolen from somewhere else online, but a stealthy catfisher might not have taken their images from the internet. They could be using a family member or friend’s photos that haven’t been posted online. Just because your online love interest passes a reverse-image search doesn’t mean it’s time to stop looking for red flags.

2. Be wary of love-struck admirers

If you’re messaging someone online who seems way too into you or starts professing their love when you hardly know them, there are two possible scenarios at play here: either you’re just that irresistible, or they’re catfishing you.

Oftentimes, catfishers, regardless of what their motives may be, aren’t super patient. They want to hook you and reel you in as fast as possible. They might act infatuated with you (before you’ve given them a reason to be), or may even declare their undying love for you after only a few days.

These things can happen with real people too, but they’re much more likely to occur with catfishers. Either way, an undeserved love confession is a huge red flag that something isn’t right with the person you’re messaging.

3. Ask your friends

Sometimes, when we’re the ones in the middle of a situation — especially a romantic relationship — we aren’t always looking at things clearly. We might be blinded by our own feelings and miss the glaringly obvious warning signs.

If you’ve met someone online, it’s a good idea to share the experience with your friends or someone you trust. Since they can look at the situation objectively, they might be able to identify red flags that you missed.

4. Video call or meet sooner rather than later

One place a catfisher can’t hide is in real life. Once you know you’re definitely interested in the other person, it might be time to ask for a face-to-face meeting in a public place.

If they live too far away to meet up at the local Starbucks, then you should at least ask them to video call you.

If the other person refuses or keeps making excuses not to video call or meet you, it’s a pretty good sign that you’re being catfished.

Keep in mind that it’s better to ask for these sooner rather than later — you don’t want to waste months getting catfished when you could’ve figured it out in a week.

5. Use common sense and trust your instincts

A catfisher might be using their own photos, but still completely lying about who they are. Unfortunately, there isn’t a great way to determine if someone you’re talking to is lying about certain parts of their life. You just have to trust your own instincts. If you’ve followed every tip and something still feels off, then it probably is — and you shouldn’t ignore your gut.

Beyond a gut instinct, common sense is your biggest asset. A Facebook profile with hardly any pictures or friends is probably fake, and the insanely attractive girl on Tinder who only has one grainy photo on her profile might just be a middle-aged man.

Catfishing can happen to anyone. While these tips will never completely prevent you from being catfished, they can lower your chances drastically. As convenient as online dating may be, it does come with risks — and we have to protect ourselves.

When I’m not writing, you can usually find me hanging out with my cats.

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