The worst kind of scammers are the ones that play with our hearts. “Catfish” is a term derived from a documentary of the same name. In it, the lead character falls in love with a scammer pretending to be someone else (younger, attractive and desirable). He ends the film using the analogy of how cod are shipped with catfish in the tanks to keep them alert and happy. There are always “catfishes” in our lives, he says.
Though this sounds like a unique, and possibly segregated plight, it dives heavily into the world of online security. Scammers create online profiles on match.com, Tinder, Facebook and other websites that rely on your need for basic human connection. People get so engrossed in online relationships that it’s not long before the victims are revealing personal information that the scammers can use to their advantage.
The classic version of this scam would be tricking the elderly to think they are related to someone they are not, or bullying them into revealing information. This is often done in person but mostly on the telephone. Today, the outlets for connections are numerous and the victims can be of any age!
These scammers can carry multiple relationships, gaining more information from multiple sources day in and day out. It’s a long con, but often pays high dividends once a victim can trust them enough to send cash or gifts.
If you have any relationship online, take some time and evaluate the relationship. Do they refuse to speak on the phone, or especially any video chat? Do they refuse to meet in person? Does it just seem too good to be true?
One trick you can use, if you suspect someone, is looking up their picture using Google reverse image search. Some scammers are lazy and simply use pictures they’ve found online. If your new online boyfriend’s profile picture happens to be from last year’s GQ magazine, you’ll know something is amiss.
Some obvious advice would be to never reveal any usernames or passwords to anyone online, especially people you don’t know “in real life”. Be cautious what information you share, too. Even your phone number (you may invite the scammer to text with you) could relay more personal information than you think.