How Not to Get “Catfished”

The world of online dating offers plenty of wonderful opportunities to meet compatible people. However, it also leaves you vulnerable to the phenomenon of “catfishing.” The term (which comes from a remarkable 2010 documentary and a compelling MTV show) refers to individuals who create elaborate false identities, luring unsuspecting victims into fraudulent online relationships that sometimes last for years. It’s heartbreaking and alarming to think that the gorgeous guy or girl you’re talking to may be nothing more than mirage projected by someone unstable or sadistic, but don’t let that put you off online dating. Here’s what you need to know about how to avoid being catfished.

Monitor plausibility

Some people who catfish are using their false online identity to do something akin to living out their dream lives. As a result, it’s smart to look out for ridiculous life stories that just don’t seem realistic. Are you talking to a supermodel, a powerful member of government or an individual with a 100 page CV of personal tragedies? If so, strongly consider the possibility that you are being duped.

Look for evasive attitudes

Be very wary if you notice that someone is unwilling to provide more than just a few photos of themselves or is constantly evading any attempt to meet in person. Even if you are not being catfished, someone who tries to avoid a personal meeting will almost definitely have something else to hide (often a spouse).

Do your research

Search around to see if this person’s alleged identity seems legitimate. For example, you should be able to find a departmental profile of someone who claims to be a college professor. It’s also worth browsing through the images that come up when you enter the person’s name and location. While nothing is foolproof, it is particularly useful if your contact will happily connect with you using Facebook or another social networking site where you can see them regularly interact with a large number of people who appear to verify their story.

Ask for proof

Given the increasing awareness of catfishing, you should be able to ask people on online dating sites to prove their identity without hurting their feelings. You can explain that you’ve heard bizarre stories and are very cautious about getting to know people without some sort of objective evidence of honesty. For example, it might be a good idea to ask the person to send a photo in which they hold up a piece of paper stating their name and the current date. If you don’t want to be explicit about your need for proof, simply ask for a Skype session with audio and video. While this can only verify their true appearance, it does help to weed out some catfish.

Keep your emotional distance until you meet

Finally, hold off on divulging lots of deeply personal information that a particularly pernicious catfish might use against you or even use for identity theft. Where possible, try to reserve judgment until you meet the individual in person and are more capable of assessing their genuineness.

by Yaro Babiy

Five Tips For The First Date

It’s difficult to make an authentic connection with a stranger unless you have a natural chemistry, but if it feels right for both of you, sparks can fly. Conversely, although it’s sometimes love at first sight, a gradually developing integration of sizzling banter and sparkling repartee might also win the day. For some, online dating websites are a tempting avenue packed with potential possibilities.

If you do try them, make sure that the dating service you employ gives you like-minded matches. Look for a site that matches all of your kooky personality quirks. If you decide on using something that only capitalizes on your all-day adoration for Hello Kitty, then you could paint yourself into a corner. Instead, share all of your interests in your online profile. Don’t have any misgivings. Be utterly misgivingless.

Oh, and do not misrepresent yourself online. If you state that you’re five years younger than you really are, or you purposefully use out-of-date photos from your “thinner era”, then you’re lying about yourself. No one wants to be on the receiving end of fraudulent trickery, or catfished by improper untruthiness. The same goes for your prospective date. If they pretend that they’ve got an awesome job or a crazy, celebrity-filed lifestyle and that’s really not the case, then you’re going to feel pretty cheated by their deceit. When creating your profile, be sincere, and trade in nothing but honesty. Tell it like it really is.

If you’ve tried a spot of online dating and are meeting up with a suitor for your first date, you might like to keep in mind these four instructional tips on first date etiquette.

Tip 1:

On a first date, choose a neat balance of seriousness and fun. Don’t be too humorless but, equally, don’t come across exclusively interested in lightweight, throwaway subjects. It’s important to keep conversation positive and enjoyable. An upbeat natter about your personal passions will ALWAYS be preferable to The Big Three Taboos, e.g. religion, politics and past relationships (the latter is the biggest no-no, because it signals to your date that you’ve not got over the previous partner).

Tip 2:

Don’t be afraid to start up a meaningful conversation. If you’ve met on a serious dating website, the chances are that the pair of you are looking for something real. Compelling questions about your career, the most important things in your life or plans for the future, are a necessary part of getting to know someone better. Let the chatting flow naturally, and don’t forget to listen. Busying yourself by continually thinking of the next conversation topic makes you seem either rude, easily distracted, or scarcely interested in what they have to say. If possible, keep the talking/listening ratio to a symmetrical 50/50 split if possible.

Tip 3:

General modern etiquette proclaims that whoever proposes the date will pay, but this should probably be talked about beforehand, so as to cease any potential faux pas blunderings. Men traditionally pay for dinner, but won’t mind if the girl wants to pay for the second meet-up: If you make him feel at ease on the first date, he’ll be open to letting you pay the next time.

Tip 4:

Act confident and self-assured, and display positive and encouraging body language. Make eye contact, smile, and lean in when talking. If there’s an attraction and you want to meet up again, don’t be shy and play hard to get. Playing pretend-uninterested is genuinely tiresome, so go ahead and ask for a second date. Something bold but controlled like “I had a really nice time with you tonight, and I’d like to see you again” is entirely appropriate. If you get rejected, take it like an adult and move on; there’s no use dwelling, it just wasn’t meant to be.

Tip 5:

DO NOT get drunk. Most people know that drinking too much can lead to awkward displays of idiocy. An anxious or worried mind can become a weak mush, and a few alcoholic beverages can appear to be a good idea at the time. However, getting wasted is an impractical quick-fix that might combat the nervous nerves, but you won’t emerge funnier or more charismatic; you’ll appear insecure and boorish. Don’t hide behind a flurry of hastily-ordered glasses of wine or a few beers that encourage such mortifyingly humiliating behavior. Avoiding that will avoid that.

Hopefully some of these words of wisdom might help some readers!

Some Reasons People Become Catfish

There can be all sorts of reasons why people become Catfish online [create fake profiles], but two I’ve read of this week are: one woman who did it to fool her employers and a man who did it to kill his girlfriend, by posing as an online stalker before he killed her.

One woman did it to humiliate her boyfriend and one man created 130 fake Facebook accounts to harass his sixteen year old girl friend. See link at end of article. **

While to many it can seem pretty harmless creating fake profiles and becoming a ‘Catfish’, and of course it can be just someone with low self esteem trying to live out a fantasy life online, to the victims it can cause pain and upset, even death in rare cases.

Other reasons I’ve heard of why people become Catfish is to check up on their partners or previous partners, to try to lure them to see if they take the bait or just to nose around on their Facebook page as someone else, if the person has blocked them. Sometimes they do it to appear anonymous on Facebook so that people they know won’t recognise them.

It’s a minefield as there are estimated to be around 83 million fake Facebook accounts. The best thing you can do as a social network user is to protect yourself by looking for the signs that someone is a fake. If you answer YES to any of these questions about your Facebook friend, then it should hold up a red flag:

1. Does your FB friend’s profile picture look too good to be true? Quite often they look like models or celebrities or just extremely attractive.

2. Do they have few photographs and none taken with friends and/or family?

3. Is there no tagging of photographs by themselves or friends?

4. Does the information they say about themselves sound too good to be true? For example, they are in the modelling business, a fashion designer, etc.

5. Do they have only a few friends listed on their page?

6. Are there few posts on their wall and lack of comments by friends?

7. Do you just ‘have a feeling’ that somehow they are too good to be true?

8. Are they always making excuses why you can’t see them on webcam or get to meet them?

9. Have you been asked for money by the suspect Catfish? If so, it could be a Nigerian Scammer behind that profile pic or some other con artist.

10. Has this person declared undying love or got keen far too soon? Another red flag.

Protect yourself by:

1. Dragging and dropping their ‘perfect image’ into Google image search, it might throw up photographs of that image elsewhere online and you might find they are posing as someone else to others.

2. If you are arranging to meet up, ensure you talk to them on webcam first so you can see they are the person in the photograph, or failing that, get them to take a photograph of themselves holding up that day’s newspaper clearly showing the date or a card with your name on it. Of course, if they are the person they say they are, it still doesn’t mean they’re not trying to con you in some way!

3. Google their full name. If they are supposed to be a successful model, designer or other, their name should show up somewhere online, if it doesn’t, see it as a probable red flag.

4. You can also contact a couple of their Facebook friends to ask what they know about the person, although you may need to be careful how you set about doing this. Chances are they might not know them either or it could be the suspected Catfish has other profiles they’ve added as friends.

5. Often if a person is a Catfish they will keep making excuses why they can’t send you a photograph, appear on webcam or keep breaking potential dates and they often have elaborate excuses, such as they were involved in a car accident, their parent was suddenly taken ill, so see anything like that as a potential red flag.

6. There are various websites where you can discover a person’s location from their email address or email header info. Here’s one:

http://www.ip2location.com/free/email-tracer

7. It’s possible to waste a lot of time with a Catfish online as they keep dangling that proverbial carrot, so give yourself a time limit and think if so and so hasn’t proved him or herself by such and such a date, they’re not worth bothering with. With today’s technology it’s not that difficult or expensive for someone to get a webcam or send a photograph to show they are the person on their profile pic. If they can’t do that, it’s the biggest red flag of all!

Remember, if something sounds too good to be true, then it probably is!

** Article link: http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-504083_162-20123755-504083/calif-man-creates-130-fake-facebook-profiles-to-harass-ex-girlfriend-pleads-no-contest/