Although the public face of social media is warm and fuzzy, it is a category of internet service with a serious dark side. It can not only destroy your productivity, have a negative impact on your mental health, and damage your privacy, but it can also make you a target of bullying and scams. What most social media users don’t know is that catfishing can do all those damages.
The term catfish was popularized by a 2020 documentary film by the same name. It refers to an individual who is intentionally deceptive when creating online profiles, often with the goal of establishing a connection with his or her victims. This deception can be elaborate and might involve the use of fake biographies, fake photos, and at times, fictitious supporting networks.
What happens during catfishing?
Although not always the case, it is primarily the catfisher who makes the first contact or move on the victim. The victim often gets a private or direct message with some kind of opener. Examples of common openers include “I can’t stop looking at your display picture” or “Hi there, handsome.”
Once the victim engages with the catfisher, the perpetrator will begin weaving their web. It is not uncommon for a catfisher to play the long game, which means the scam is perpetrated over a lengthy period. Note that the catfisher takes the time to build trust with the victim.
Remember, catfishers are experienced in manipulating and exploiting various personal weaknesses of the specific people they target. Most victims include people who are lonely, have a deceased spouse, or have other forms of vulnerabilities.
If you suspect that you are a victim of catfishing on social media, cease communication with the catfisher and block them. It’s also recommended to report the user to the social network. Be sure to talk to someone you trust about the incident or contact the police, especially if you have been scammed out of money.