What is Catfishing? Everything You Need to Know (2023)

By Tibor Moes / Updated: June 2023

What is Catfishing? Everything You Need to Know (2023)<br />

What is Catfishing?

In today’s digital world, establishing connections with people online has become the new norm. However, the rise of online communication also brought about deceptive practices, such as catfishing. Are you aware of the red flags indicating potential catfishing attempts?

In this blog post, we’ll explore the concept of catfishing, its origins, motivations, and how it impacts victims. We’ll then delve into common platforms for catfishing and identify warning signs to look out for. Lastly, we’ll provide practical tips on how to protect yourself from catfishing and share some real-life stories that highlight the reality of this deceptive practice.


  • Catfishing involves creating fake online profiles to deceive people into emotional or romantic relationships, often leading to financial exploitation or identity theft.

  • Victims can experience significant emotional trauma, financial loss, and damage to their reputations.

  • Prevention involves online vigilance, verifying identities, not sharing personal or financial details, and reporting suspected catfishing attempts.

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Understanding Catfishing: Definition and Origins

Catfishing is a deceptive practice in which a person creates a fake identity on social media platforms or online dating apps to trick others into a romantic relationship, friendship, or even for financial gain. The term “catfishing” originated from the 2010 documentary “Catfish,” in which the filmmakers discovered a woman using fake photos and a false identity online. Since then, the phenomenon has become widespread, with numerous people falling victim to catfishing scams.

The motivations behind catfishing vary, ranging from seeking emotional validation to pursuing financial gain. Regardless of the reason, catfishing often results in severe consequences for the victims. As such, it’s essential to recognize the signs of catfishing and learn how to protect oneself from this deceptive activity.

The Motivations Behind Catfishing

People catfish for various reasons, including low self-esteem, mental illness, seeking attention or revenge, and even financial gain. Individuals with poor self-esteem might catfish to garner attention and feel validated by others. In some cases, catfishing is driven by a desire for revenge, often involving cyberbullying or damaging someone’s reputation.

Financial gain is another common motivation for catfishing, as perpetrators may attempt to scam their victims or gain access to their financial information. In more sinister cases, catfishers might engage in sextortion, exploiting sensitive images to extract more images or money from their victims.

Understanding these motivations helps us better identify potential fishers and protect ourselves from their deceptive schemes.

The Impact of Catfishing on Victims

Being catfished can have a detrimental effect on victims, causing emotional pain, trust issues, embarrassment, anxiety, and even depression. The emotional turmoil experienced by victims can lead to long-term consequences, such as difficulty trusting people online and the fear of being deceived again. Additionally, victims may feel humiliated, ashamed, and full of self-doubt, further damaging their mental well-being.

In extreme cases, catfishing can result in financial loss or even put the victim in physical danger. Recognizing the warning signs of catfishing and implementing protective measures can help prevent the devastating impact it has on victims.

Common Platforms for Catfishing

Catfishing scams are ubiquitous on social media and online dating sites or apps. This type of fraud commonly takes place through these platforms. Perpetrators use these platforms to create false personas, often using fake pictures and personal information to deceive their victims. Instagram, for instance, is a fertile ground for catfishing, as scammers can easily send follow requests or direct messages to unsuspecting users. Similarly, the “Tinder Catfish” has become a common phenomenon on the popular dating app, Tinder.

One of the most common tactics used by catfishers on these platforms is requesting money from their victims. They may ask for a plane ticket to visit the victim or financial assistance for a supposed emergency. By understanding how fishers operate on these platforms, we can be more vigilant and protect ourselves from falling prey to their scams.

Recognizing the Red Flags: Signs of Catfishing

To avoid falling victim to catfishing, it’s crucial to recognize the red flags that signal potential deception. In the following sections, we’ll discuss three main warning signs to look out for: reluctance to video call or meet in person, inconsistent or limited online presence, and suspicious profile elements.

Being aware of these indicators can help protect you and others from the emotional and financial harm caused by catfishing scams.

Reluctance to Video Call or Meet in Person

One of the most telling signs of catfishing is a person’s reluctance to engage in video calls or face-to-face meetings. Catfishers avoid these interactions to maintain their false identity and prevent their true selves from being revealed. It’s essential to verify a person’s identity through video calling or meeting in person before investing too much time or emotional energy into an online relationship, especially if you’ve met online.

If someone persistently avoids video calls or in-person meetings, it could be a huge red flag indicating catfishing. Trust your gut feeling and insist on verifying their identity before proceeding further in the relationship. If they continue to dodge these interactions, it might be time to step away and protect yourself from potential deception.

Inconsistent or Limited Online Presence

A lack of online presence or inconsistencies in personal information can also be indicative of catfishing. Catfishers often have disjointed visual appearances and sparse online footprints to avoid detection. They may also use personal email addresses instead of professional ones, further distancing themselves from their real-life identities.

Being active on only one social media platform is another red flag, as it could mean the person is trying to stay hidden by removing their personal information from the internet. Always dig deeper into a person’s online presence, and if inconsistencies or limited profiles persist, consider the possibility of catfishing.

Suspicious Profile Elements

Apart from avoiding video calls and having limited online presence, catfishers may also exhibit suspicious profile elements. Professional photos, recent account creations, and very few friends or followers can all signal potential catfishing. Additionally, using fake photos as part of their false online identity is a common tactic employed by catfishers.

Pay close attention to the details provided by a person online. If their story keeps changing or they avoid answering questions about their job, family, home, and other details, it could be a sign that the information is not authentic. In such cases, it’s best to step away from the relationship and protect yourself from potential harm.

How to Protect Yourself from Catfishing

Now that we’ve covered the warning signs of catfishing, let’s dive into practical tips and strategies to safeguard yourself from potential scams. In the following sections, we’ll discuss three key protection measures: verifying information and images, setting boundaries and trusting your instincts, and reporting and blocking suspected catfishers.

Implementing these strategies can significantly reduce the risk of falling victim to catfishing scams.

Verifying Information and Images

To confirm the authenticity of a person’s online presence, consider using tools like reverse image search and background checks. Platforms such as Google Reverse Image Search, TinEye, and Findexif allow you to check for similar pictures and verify personal information. By doing so, you can ensure that the person you’re talking to is genuine and that the information they provide is accurate.

Verifying information and images is a critical aspect of protecting oneself from catfishing. Always double-check the details provided by a person online and use the available tools to confirm their identity. By doing so, you can reduce the likelihood of being deceived by a catfisher.

Setting Boundaries and Trusting Your Instincts

Establishing personal boundaries and trusting your gut feelings are essential when engaging with others online. Reflect on your reasons for setting boundaries and determine what aspects of your life you want to protect. Start by setting meaningful boundaries that you can stick to, and remain firm in enforcing them.

To trust your instincts, practice mindfulness and tune in to your body’s signals. Listen to your inner voice and pay attention to any red flags that may arise. If something doesn’t feel right, it’s crucial to trust your intuition and take appropriate action to protect yourself from potential deception.

Reporting and Blocking Suspected Catfishers

If you suspect someone is catfishing you, it’s essential to report and block them on the respective social media or dating platform. Doing so not only protects you from potential harm, but also helps prevent others from falling victim to the same catfisher.

If you’ve been scammed, it’s crucial to reach out to law enforcement and file a report. Taking action against suspected catfishers is a vital step in safeguarding your well-being and the well-being of others in the online community. Stay proactive in maintaining your online security and report any suspicious behavior to the appropriate authorities.

Real-Life Catfishing Stories

To further illustrate the reality and impact of catfishing, let’s take a look at some notable real-life cases that gained media attention. These stories include a police officer who drove 4,000km to meet a teenager before killing her family, a woman catfished by a man who showed up at her home and killed her mother and grandparents, and a woman catfished by a man who turned out to be a serial killer. These harrowing accounts demonstrate the devastating consequences of catfishing and the importance of staying vigilant online.

Learning from real-life stories can better equip us to recognize and prevent catfishing in our own lives. By understanding the warning signs, implementing protective measures, and sharing information with others, we can collectively work towards a safer online environment for everyone.


In conclusion, catfishing is a deceptive practice that has become increasingly prevalent in today’s digital world. It’s vital for everyone to understand the phenomenon, its motivations, and the impact it has on victims. By recognizing the warning signs, such as reluctance to video call or meet in person, inconsistent or limited online presence, and suspicious profile elements, we can protect ourselves and others from potential harm.

Stay vigilant, verify information and images, set boundaries, trust your instincts, and take action against suspected catfishers to safeguard your well-being and that of others in the online community. Together, we can combat the deception of catfishing and foster a safer virtual space for genuine connections.

How to stay safe online:

  • Practice Strong Password Hygiene: Use a unique and complex password for each account. A password manager can help generate and store them. In addition, enable two-factor authentication (2FA) whenever available.
  • Invest in Your Safety: Buying the best antivirus for Windows 11 is key for your online security. A high-quality antivirus like Norton, McAfee, or Bitdefender will safeguard your PC from various online threats, including malware, ransomware, and spyware.
  • Be Wary of Phishing Attempts: Be cautious when receiving suspicious communications that ask for personal information. Legitimate businesses will never ask for sensitive details via email or text. Before clicking on any links, ensure the sender's authenticity.
  • Stay Informed. We cover a wide range of cybersecurity topics on our blog. And there are several credible sources offering threat reports and recommendations, such as NIST, CISA, FBI, ENISA, Symantec, Verizon, Cisco, Crowdstrike, and many more.

Happy surfing!

Frequently Asked Questions

Below are the most frequently asked questions.

What is meant by catfishing?

Catfishing is an online deception where someone creates a false identity or uses a fake profile to convince another person to give them money, goods, or services. Catfishers use personal information taken from other people to create entirely new and false identities with the intent of gaining access to unsuspecting victims.

Why do people do catfishing?

People do catfishing to achieve a variety of things from financial gain, seeking revenge, or simply for the thrill of seeing how far they can manipulate others. They might be looking to boost their self-esteem or gain validation by creating a fake identity online and playing out fantasies through it.

By engaging in catfishing, they get the opportunity to express themselves without having to reveal their true identity.

Is catfishing a person illegal?

Is Catfishing Illegal? While the act of catfishing itself is not illegal, it can become problematic depending on the motives of the instigator. If a person engages in catfishing with malicious intentions, they may face criminal charges related to their behavior.

How do you know if you are being catfished?

If your online contact is claiming to love you quickly and pushing for an exclusive relationship despite never having met in person, then you are likely being catfished. Other red flags are requests for money, reluctance to video chat, or an unwillingness to meet up in person.

Be wary of any online contacts that may be too good to be true!

Author: Tibor Moes

Author: Tibor Moes

Founder & Chief Editor at SoftwareLab

Tibor has tested 39 antivirus programs and 30 VPN services, and holds a Cybersecurity Graduate Certificate from Stanford University.

He uses Norton to protect his devices, CyberGhost for his privacy, and Dashlane for his passwords.

You can find him on LinkedIn or contact him here.