How to Spot a Catfish on Facebook

What is a Catfish?

Catfish are scammers who troll dating sites and Facebook looking for “love”. Once they’ve hooked someone, they proclaim their fascination and devotion, then propose a meeting. Unfortunately there will be some financial obstacle that they will need help with in order to reach your loving arms. Once you have sent them money, there will be an unexpected illness, accident, or arrest that temporarily delays the consummation of your caresses. And the whole cycle repeats …

I think the term started as a verb, as in “hooking a catfish” but it’s now applied to the scammers as a noun — the scammers are now referred to as “catfish”.

These scammers troll the internet like fishermen with big nets, looking for lonely  hearts willing to pay out big bucks to finally meet their true love.  Men and women have been known to send hundreds of thousands of dollars, even millions, to catfish.

There was a reality TV show about catfishing, and a 2010 B-roll film. But for the shortest, most to-the-point tutorials, just Google “Dr. Phil catfish”.  The Dr. Phil show has featured multiple victims of both sexes, including one woman who paid $1.4 million to her online lover.

How can you tell if someone is catfishing?

  1. The account page will be relatively new.
  2. There will be little information and few photos.
  3. The photos that are there will have no commentary.
  4. There will be few or no posts in the status feed. What posts are there are usually bait copied from other sites.
  5. Usually missing a banner photo.
  6. The poster has really poor and awkward English.
  7. If they’re posing as men, the account will claim to be either in the US military stationed overseas, an engineer or ‘self-employed’ in Europe. Job descriptions may vary, but not by much.
  8. If the account is posing as a woman, she will be svelte, lovely, and lonely.
  9. These people never take the time to post on your status feed and engage in real conversation with you and your followers.
  10. They want to take you directly to private flirting.

How to report catfishing on Facebook

If a stranger sends you a PM (personal message) complimenting you on your smile, your hair, your beauty, and so on, please for the sake of all the kind, generous people out there who are targeted by these predators, report them. Don’t just block them — report them! It takes less than 10 seconds to scan a profile and spot a catfish.  And only a few more seconds to report it. You may have to choose the button for ‘unwanted contact’ or ‘spam’. Facebook makes it impossible to report it as ‘catfishing’.

Facebook’s reporting structure for this kind of trolling, baiting and scamming is minimal at best. The site is attracting this kind of activity because there are no limits and no consequences.  Please do what you can to make Facebook more aware of the problem and to help Facebook become a site that we can all enjoy safely.


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