Blog 09 Jan 2024
Catfishing

Catfishing Meaning: 7 Cybersecurity Tips, History and Examples

Author: Carter | 09 Jan 2024

From sole individuals to large-scale businesses, everyone has at least once fallen victim to one of the digital fraud attempts. Be it phishing, spyware, or any other means of data breaches. Getting a notification on a phone with a follow-up or message request from a person already known is nothing new. Everyone accepts and connects with people they know. Fraudsters or bad actors now use this option as a scam method to lure people into their traps.

Today, we will introduce catfishing, another type of attempt that attackers use, this time not to breach business networks but to distract or manipulate people for personal gains. Catfishing is the very approach that people take to carry out their illicit activities. It is not the kind of a marine species but a person who impersonates someone else. 

Key Highlights

  • Catfishers exploit online users by posing as someone else for their benefit. 
  • Catfishes use personal sensitive information for their financial gains, including taking loans at prey’s identity or to defraud a victim. 
  • An online harasser builds a close relationship with the person online whilst pretending to be someone else. This is usually done by using another user’s personal data or image to fabricate a fake persona. 

Catfishing Meaning: What Is Its Role in Online Platforms and Dating Apps?

Catfishing is the activity in which a person is depicted as somebody else by copying the personal data of a real person. In this technique, people use personal information like: 

  • Pictures
  • Names
  • Social media profiles

They create a fake persona of the real entity and interact with other people online. With the increase in AI tools across the industry, this technique is rising across each sector, as creating multiple images of someone is just a single prompt away. Catfishers do this for several reasons, however, it is a major scam that can lead to fraud and crimes.  

What is Catfishing Online?

Catfishing, the act of creating fake online personas, is unfortunately common in online dating. Recognizing a catfish involves noticing certain red flags. Typically, they come across as too good to be true, tailoring their personality to match the person they’re talking to. Catfish tend to have limited photos on their social media profiles, often stolen from others. They avoid video calls and meeting up, offering excuses like shyness or technical issues. Dodging personal questions and withholding information, such as a phone number, is another warning sign. If asked for a candid selfie, they struggle to provide one, as they’d need to find a matching photo from their stolen profiles.

What is Catfishing in Dating?

Online impersonation, digital deception, or catfishing is a kind of online romance fraud in which the harasser makes a fake identity to manipulate the victim. The primary purpose is to harass or troll the victims, steal their identity, and scam them. 

Catfishing is common in dating apps as scammers sometimes get close to people by playing with their feelings and getting access to all their sensitive information. Specifically on dating websites, catfishes approach people, make a relationship, and then use their sensitive data to blackmail, bully, and embarrass them.  However, a person doesn’t realize that he or she is being catfished as a catfish poses as a person they are not – to trap people into romance scams. This can be due to many reasons, such as loneliness, sexual exploration, revenge, or financial gain. 

catfishing

How Catfish Originated- A Brief History

The word ‘Catfish’ originated from an old story about catfish. Anglers used to ship these fishes combined with codfish to keep them agile, providing a better taste and quality. In the modern world, a catfish keeps people on their toes similar to fish in the tale, displaying the literal meaning of catfishing. This advanced term originated from the 2010 documentary, but this type of scamming is older than this. Catfishes have been around since the commencement of online forums and have been arrested by police for trying to exploit users, specifically minors. 

MTV’s Catfish is a TV Show that is well-known, but its origin story may not be as familiar. Host Nev Schulman experienced catfishing firsthand when he fell in love with a girl online, only to discover she wasn’t who she claimed to be. This personal experience led to the creation of a documentary titled “Catfished,” giving rise to the term “catfish.”

Is Catfishing Illegal? 

It’s essential to understand whether catfishing is legal, as it’s a tricky question. However, representing someone else isn’t against the law, but extortion, cyberbullying, and fraud can be. People must be careful whilst sending nude and intimate images to someone digitally, and if both parties are underage, then it’s considered child pornography. 

Catfishing is manipulative and dangerous to the extent that it can take someone’s life. That’s why it’s a crime if the harassers:

  • Commits identity theft
  • Commit scams such as asking victims to send goods or money
  • Use trademarked or copyrighted material
  • Take or records other images without their approval
  • Gains illegal access to the network or a system
  • Involves a minor in fraud
  • Introduces system viruses or damaged computers

Catfishing and Cyberbullying – Understanding Why People Catfish

Cyberbullying involves embarrassing, humiliating and harming someone on online platforms by using illegal means. Therefore, catfishing is a kind of cyberbullying as it harms the target and plays with their minds. Furthermore, catfish lure people into fake relationships and grab their sensitive information so they can use this data against them for financial gains or execute their illicit activities. 

Online harassers use the person’s emotions against them and are involved in collecting different aspects of the user’s personal history by recognizing their physical traits and any other sensitive information that can make them sad, scared, or depressed. Catfishers usually target isolated people who are in need of any relationship – such people can be exploited easily.

catfishing

  • Financial Gain

Digital imposters present fake financial needs by projecting that they are in dire need of money, have an emergency, or are ill. Furthermore, they also portray themselves as travelers who run out of cash to meet their expenses. Catfishers pose with different scenarios to acquire funds from the same target. 

  • Attachment Anxiety 

Yes, catfishing has many effects, but the inspiration behind this isn’t always nefarious. Sometimes, the perpetrator has a psychological illness that urges them to claim the fake identity. Reports suggest that people who catfish have a higher fear of rejection, and anxiety levels and disturb their mental health. This is just a game for some perpetrators, and statistically, men catfish more than women. 

  • Insecurity

Usually, people who feel bad about their lives or aren’t confident seem to be involved in catfishing. They try to create fake identities of someone who they want to be by taking their images. Moreover, they also pretend to have a successful career just to enjoy the feeling of accomplishment. Hence, catfishers who idealise attractive identities also try to grab more attention to feel more confident and famous. 

  • Revenge

Catfishing crimes are more famous than ever as these scammers take revenge on the people they impersonate. They use another individual’s name and face to create their online presence. Then, they do things or speak badly about people just to negatively impact that user. 

  • Identity Theft 

Catfishing usually leads to identity theft in different ways, as catfishers use the targeted person’s personal information to commit fraud and create a new identity. 

What are the Examples of Catfishing? 

Imposters manipulate and deceive individuals for multiple purposes, such as terrorism and financial gain. Catfishing also impacts organisations and businesses that are more than just peer-to-peer – targeting individuals on a personal level. Some of the most common catfishing cases are below:

  • The Manti Te’o Case

In 2012, Manti Te’o was a famous football player who was catfished by a lady known as Lennay Kekua. Basically, Kekua was a man who made a fake profile on a social media platform to start a relationship with him that went too far. Even Kekua took sympathy from Te’o by faking her death, and this story has been documented on Netflix with the name The Girlfriend Who Didn’t Exist. 

  • The Military Imposter

John Edward Taylor was imprisoned for 14 years for catfishing on social media platforms, explicitly dating sites with different women. He pretends to be a retired CIA agent or Navy SEAL.  John made this fake identity to impress his targets, earn their trust and defraud them monetarily. Afterwards, he was caught red-handed and sentenced on different counts of identity and theft fraud

  • The ISIS Recruiter

Mohamad Jamal Khweis –  a Virginia man, was sentenced to jail for attempting to join Syrian ISIS in 2015. Umm Isa al-Amrikiya recruited him and believed Khweis was a young woman interested in Islam. However, Khweis was an imposter and ISIS agent who worked to attract individuals to Western recruits and worked as a suicide bomber.  That’s why he was jailed for 20 years. 

How to Restrict Catfishers this Valentine’s?

Catfishing scandals are more well-known as imposters usually target specific individuals for fraud or deception, so it’s a hazardous activity, especially for minors. This is generally used in dating websites or romance scams to compromise a victim for financial gain. In a recent survey, 78% of Indians couldn’t differentiate between a letter written by ChatGPT and a human being that portrays the potential of catfishers to misuse the technology. In the last 5 years, in the US alone, 1.3 billion people have reported dating scams. 

Catfishers use matrimonial and online dating sites to create relationships with victims and then blackmail them for financial gains or by using false accusations such as medical emergencies. Socialcatfish.com is an accurate resource that assists victims of online scams. Following are a few points that are listed on this website to stay away from imposters this Valentine. 

  • Don’t respond if someone connects out of nowhere, as there must be a catfisher hidden agenda that they want to fulfil. They probably try to deceive by providing fake identities for money or any illegal activity. 
  • Never share sensitive and personal information with anyone online, as this can be used for blackmail. This also empowers catfishers if the victim tries to file a report against them or can hack personal accounts, including email, social media and bank accounts.
  • Let’s suppose someone is interested in your credit card or bank account information and talks about this in the second to third chat. Consider this as a warning sign and stay away from them.
  • When chatting with someone online, don’t doubt your instincts; trust your sixth sense when it seems or feels weird and complete research.
  • Start a video call with that person and pay attention to details, such as their background, etc. 

How to Discontinue a Catfish Relationship? 

Obviously, it’s difficult to end a relationship with catfishers, but doing the following things will prove to be a lifesaver. 

  • By continuously thinking about all the incidents that had happened in the past.
  • Immediately block them to prevent mental peace and any mutual friends. 
  • Seek mental therapy if it’s getting on nerves. Obviously, handing over financial data and getting scammed by it isn’t easy. 

Live Demo: Stay alert and restrict catfishers by taking our services: 

7 Cybersecurity Tips to Outsmart a Catfish

Catfishing scandals are increasing with technological expansion as imposters now know how they can deceive users on digital platforms. These tips are effective to avoid and restrict catfishers. 

 

catfishers

1. Stay Vigilant

Individuals must be cautious whilst talking to someone over the internet as there are higher chances of being spoofed. It’s been said that ‘prevention is better than cure’, and this phrase should be remembered when going into the internet world. 

2. Consider Reverse Picture Search

To know if the person is authentic, always run a reverse image search. In many cases, the fake picture shows up in stock images or on real social media user accounts. 

3. Do a Video or Audio Call

Video or audio calls are the most effective ways to understand if the user is authentic or any scammer. Stay vigilant if they always refuse, as it could be a sign that they are hiding themselves and don’t want to reveal their identity. 

4. Try to Ask Specific Questions 

In case of any red flags, try to ask questions from different perspectives and do it occasionally, as imposters can’t hide their identity for a long period of time. Specifically question them about their background, education, and work. For example, if they state that they live nearby, then ask them for proof or about a local place and judge them. 

5. Efficiently Conduct Research 

Make sure to do thorough research whilst engaging with new users on social media platforms. For example, a Google search can provide many answers to exposing a catfisher. Just write the user name on the search engine and see if his/her image is fake or taken from the internet. 

6. Take Advice From Friends

Don’t leave friends, just reach out to them after seeing threats. Ask for therapy and advice that will help in moving on from this phase. Also, it will give a clear and transparent view of the situation that will help in making better decisions. 

7. Update the Privacy Settings 

Catfishing cases can be reduced by keeping social media accounts private. It’s really helpful that imposters can’t even reach and see what is going on in anyone’s life. People have control to limit who can see their profiles, and restrict catfishing on social media platforms. 

How Conventional Verification Techniques are Lagging? 

Facebook is the biggest dating app that verifies identities, but catfishers create fake profiles and try to look authentic. Imposters use credential-stuffing tactics that employ bots to hack account logins. That’s why manual verification methods are no longer sufficient and can actually put the user at high risk. Digital platforms have to provide advanced user protection features that imposters can’t hamper with. 

Why Facial-Centric Identity Verification Is a Future? 

To restrict imposters, dating sites must provide a blue tick to authentic users by doing their facial verification. Then, users can decide if they want to communicate with the specific person or just scroll on to the next. That’s how sites can secure user information and persons from being catfished. 

Face recognition helps dating sites verify authentic users and eliminate bots or scammers. By doing so, social media can also secure users and their sensitive information from being trapped. Users just have to scan their faces through their webcams or Android phones, and AI-powered systems store their information in the database. Every time a user logs in to a dating site or any social media platform, these systems verify them by comparing their facial imprints with database information in less than one second. This process also confirms that this user is authentic and not any catfisher. 

How Facia Counters Catfishing with Technology?

Virtual socialisation and online dating have been on the rise since the pandemic, so social applications and sites have to facilitate digital meetups and conversations. Social media platforms and dating sites have to secure users from catfishers to provide authentic connections. They have to ensure that all users are verified. This is where Facia steps in. 

Facia’s white-label technology assists businesses in reducing spoofing, phishing, and cyber-attacks to secure user’s sensitive information and personal details. We aim to make the internet a secure place for users and continuously monitor imposter activities to restrict them. 

Prevent catfishing from your platform today, contact us now to get a free demo of our service and ensure security with Facia

FAQs

Why is it Called Catfishing?

Catfish are kept in the same tanks as cod during fishing to chase and keep them alive. Just like digital catfish is a predator that chases their victims surrounded by a swarm of online profiles. 

What Does Catfishing Someone Mean?

Catfishing someone means manipulating any individual online through a fake identity. Meanwhile, stealing their identity, such as name, address, and profile picture, for any financial gain or other illegal activity. 

How do You Know if Someone is Catfishing you?

Catfishers hide their profile, avoid questions, deny video or audio calls, never provide academic background, never share nearby locations, and ask for finances every time. 

When did Catfishing become a Thing?

From MTV’s Catfish in 2010, when the host ‘Nev Schulman’ fell in love with a girl online, but he discovered that it was a fake profile. 

What is Catfishing a Person?

Catfishers target isolated people who can easily become their victims to manipulate and deceive them for any financial gain, sexual exploitation, or other illegal activity.