8 Signs You’re Being Catfished Online & How to Protect Yourself

The term catfish seems to be growing in popularity, especially with the increase in online interactions. Thousands fall victim to their ploy every year, with many just wanting to form meaningful relationships online. A catfish will often imitate or pretend to be someone else in the hopes of financial or status gains. In simple terms, the person you’re talking to isn’t who they claim to be.
No one wants to believe they’d fall victim to a catfish, but decoding people online isn’t always the most straightforward task. There are a few red flags to watch out for online, especially if you think you’re being catfished. Here are eight signs you’re being catfished and how to protect yourself against them.
They’re Ridiculously Attractive
One of the most vital points of a relationship is physical attraction. It’s a selling point, and those catfishing understand that building a dynamic with someone is easier when there’s physical attraction. Pay attention to anyone who seems to consistently shares model-quality photos. When in doubt, use a reverse image search to see if the images exist anywhere else online. Drag the photographs you’ve been sent to the Google search bar and see where the photos have been shared. If there are multiple results, including stock photos, consider it a serious red flag.
Every Photo Seems Staged
Pay attention to the photos you receive from your contact. If you’re receiving perfectly staged photos every time you interact, there’s a good chance they’re not current or authentic. Candid shots aren’t posed or planned; they’re simply a moment in time. If they’re perfectly timed, flawless, and blemish-free, there’s a good chance you’re talking to a catfish. This is particularly true if the profile never sends selfies or raw (unfiltered) photos.
Calls Always Go to Voicemail
While you’re not likely to jump on a call in the early stages, it’s not uncommon to have a few phone calls as a relationship progresses through time. If someone is actively avoiding your calls, despite sharing photos and videos, they’re potentially trying to hide who they are. Pay attention to how the individual wants to communicate; do they consistently send photographs? Have they sent videos or clips? Are you the only one sending multimedia? If exchanges don’t seem to be mutual, consider it a significant warning sign.
Social Media Connections are Rare
With billions of social media profiles registered worldwide, there’s a good chance the person you’re talking to has a few accounts. If you’re chatting with someone online and they won’t accept your social media requests, proceed with caution. They may be hiding their identity, connections, or contacts –especially if they have no intention of meeting you. Consider ordering a background check whenever you’re talking to someone you’d like to form a relationship with. These checks can confirm the person you’re talking to is genuine.
Their Details Seem Vague or Hyper Detailed
It seems like you never get a straight answer out of them, or they’ve accounted for virtually every minute of their day. A catfish has multiple relationships on the go at various times, especially if they’re after financial gain. As such, it can often be difficult to remember specific details or events during conversations. If the person you’re chatting with seems to change their story randomly (or if they have every detail recorded), there’s probably not a genuine connection. Take note of any discrepancies, especially relating to family, friends, or significant events.
They Always Have an Excuse for Bailing
The goal for online relationships is eventually meeting in person (even in long-distance relationships). A catfish will find any dramatic reason to avoid meeting in person, trying to elicit an emotional response. These can include health, transportation, or financial hardships, with a focus on cost and victimization. If you’re constantly unable to meet because of a continuous string of bad fortune, reconsider the relationship.
They Ask You for Money
Eventually, a catfish will test the water, often by asking for help with bills or expenses. The amount is often significant (ranging from hundreds to thousands of dollars) but will impact your emotional attachment or interests. These can include traveling costs, emergencies, car repairs, or employment issues. A catfish will often ask for money before meeting you, which can be a huge sign they’re using you. While it may seem cruel, never give money to anyone you meet online, without meeting them first. If they make you feel bad for refusing to send cash, end the relationship immediately.
Your Gut Tells You Something is Off
Maybe there’s the occasional story that’s raised some questions, or perhaps there’s something you can’t identify. Whatever the reason, it’s essential to trust your gut when something doesn’t seem right. Intuition can pick up on several subtleties throughout the relationship: from staged photos to bizarre disappearances. Although our emotions may run high during a catfish relationship, our gut isn’t easily persuaded. If the connection is causing you anxiety in the relationship, end the interactions and move on.

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Adam Ali