In recent years, it has become more and more popular for single people to look for a partner through dating apps and online dating. Even apart from dating, people use apps and internet chat rooms to find like-minded individuals to befriend. These tools can help us find people who are in our area and share our interests and when people present themselves honestly on the internet, but unfortunately, there are a lot of technology users out there who lie about their identities. “Catfish” is no longer a word used solely to describe the aquatic creature; the Merriam-Webster dictionary also defines “catfish” as “a person who sets up a false personal profile on a social networking site for fraudulent or deceptive purposes.”
According to Scientific American, 54% of online daters believe that at least one profile they’ve come across contained false information, and this statistic highlights the prevalence of catfishing in today’s society. We’re at the point where movies and even a TV show have been created to share stories of online deception. Hiding behind a screen makes it so easy for people to be dishonest about their personal information and their intentions.
However, there are ways to help determine whether the person you are chatting with is who they say they are or a wholly made up human. Here are 10 tips to help you figure out if your new online bae (or friend) is a catfish.
1. Do a Google search and check them out on multiple social media platforms.
Some people aren’t big on social media, and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s still a good idea to see if you can find any information about them on the internet before things get too serious, though. Do a Google search and see what pops up. Look them up on Facebook and determine whether their profile seems legitimate. If you can find that guy from Tinder on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn and his information is consistent across all platforms, he is probably who he says he is, it’ll put you more at ease.
2. Take a look at their friends list.
If someone has very few online friends or followers, it can be a red flag that they are a catfish. Real people, even people who aren’t particularly social, have a plethora of people that they have encountered throughout different wakes of life and are likely to have more people connected to them on social media, so the profile you’re looking at with six friends probably isn’t a real person.
If you happen to notice that you have a mutual Facebook friend with the person you’ve been talking to, definitely reach out to your friend–that way, you can find out from them what your online date is really like. If your friend actually knows this person, likes them and confirms information about them that was shared with you, then it’s unlikely that you’re being catfished.
3. Use a reverse image search if you’re suspicious of them using stock photos.
Yes, this is a real thing, and it is an extremely helpful tool. If the profile you are looking at only has very professional-looking stock photos, take them and conduct a reverse Google image search on your computer or phone. If this picture comes up under one or many profiles whose names do not match that of your virtual love interest, then they are probably catfishing you. This takes literal seconds and can quickly help you spot a liar.
4. Google messages to see if they’re original.
People who catfish can get lazy and use love notes that are already online instead of coming up with original content. If something sounds a little off to you, trust your gut and copy and paste the message into Google to see what comes up. If it appears, you will know that the person you’re seeing is not being genuine and you should approach with caution if you continue to speak to them.
5. Consider whether their stories are plausible.
Some people lead extraordinary lives and just because your online date seems really great doesn’t mean that they are too good to be true. However, it’s important to listen to peoples’ stories carefully and make sure that they add up. If they tell far-fetched tales that don’t really make sense in the context of other information, they have presented, or you catch them straight up changing details about their life, be careful, especially if this happens frequently. An actual person has an actual life to tell you about. A catfish is constantly trying to keep their story straight.
6. Consider whether the relationship is moving at a “normal” pace.
There may be no definitive pace that is “normal” in a romantic relationship because every couple is different, but if things are moving extremely fast, it can be a red flag. Ladies, this isn’t The Bachelor–there is absolutely no reason to rush into a deep, meaningful connection, especially with someone who you have never met in person. If you feel as though things are progressing at a rapid pace, you may not have found someone looking for the genuine connection that they claim they want, because it takes time to truly get to know someone and gauge whether you are compatible.
7. Be wary of anyone who asks you for money.
If someone you met recently online is asking you for money, their intentions probably aren’t to find love. No matter how “great” of a connection you have, asking a stranger for cash over a dating site or app can range from weird to rude to manipulative depending on the situation, and none of those options are fantastic. If they’re truly that desperate, why are they reaching out to you rather than family or close friends? Or, you know, at least a friend they’ve actually met in person before.
8. Suggest that they send you a current picture.
The key to doing this is to ask the person to send a picture of themselves doing something specific, such as holding up their pinky finger or giving a thumbs-up. If they are able to deliver, then it is more likely that they actually look like the photos on their profile. If someone is using a stock photo, they won’t have a photo of that model doing the specific action you’ve requested and won’t be able to send you a “candid” picture. (Unless they are really good with Photoshop, in which case, props to them.)
9. Suggest video chatting or meeting up and gauge their reaction.
If you suggest meeting up or video chatting with a person you’ve been talking to for a while, and their identity isn’t fake, they should have no problem talking to you face-to-face. Conversely, if the person regularly makes excuses to why they can’t (like having a broken webcam) or makes plans with you and then continually bails on them so that you never get the chance to see each other, there’s something fishy going on.
10. Enlist the help of a professional.
If all else fails, there are professionals who have been trained to investigate people and figure out whether online profiles belong to regular people or to ones who are catfishing you. They know what they’re doing and can give you some insight.
Even though it’s nearly impossible to tell for sure, there are ways to figure out whether the person you’ve been talking to online is lying about their identity or if they really could be a potential significant other. Good luck with your technology-based search for love and remember to have fun, but also be careful, when online dating.