Online dating: 5 tips to outsmart a catfish and protect yourself from romance scams

Everybody is looking for love. And many are looking for it online these days. But there’s a big risk with finding romance online: you could become the victim of catfish, also known as a romance scam. 

Do you ever wonder if the partner you’re chatting with online and seem to fall for is legit? Most online daters do. 

Online dating is pretty popular today. Even before the pandemic, a lot of people used various dating apps to meet their soulmates or just a date for a fun party. But, the activity on dating apps has surged during the pandemic as people were locked in their homes and with everything being closed, including event venues, online was the only environment where they could meet people. 

Take Tinder, for example. The popular dating app reported recording its highest number of swipes in march 2020: 3 billion. OkCupid, another popular dating app, said that from March to May 2020, it had seen a 700% in dates. Bumble also reported experiencing a 70% increase in video calls. All these stats make it clear that not even a pandemic can stop us from looking for love. 

Keep reading below to learn more about catfishing and how to protect yourself from becoming a victim of it! 

Catfishing explained 

First things first, let’s make sure we’re on the same page with what catfishing is so that you can better know what to protect yourself from. 

Catfishing is the use of a fake online profile or persona to lune someone else into a false relationship, usually for financial purposes. Simply put, catfishing is when someone creates a fake online profile to trick people who are looking for romance or dates, usually to get money out of them. But, note that catfishing isn’t always a matter of romantic partners. Sometimes it can come in the form of family, friends, or even business relationships. 

Now, with online being pretty much everywhere in the world, catfishing is a very widespread issue. In fact, there’s an interesting analysis of where the catfish hotspots are if you want to find where the biggest fraudsters live.

5 tips for outsmarting a catfish 

You know what catfishes are and why they are doing it. But you’re likely wondering how to protect yourself from them. Here are five tips for outsmarting a catfish: 

Research them 

Everybody who has been in the world of dating, be it online or offline, has, at least once, met someone who we thought was too good to be true. Truth be told, oftentimes, that’s exactly what we end up discovering: the person is not at all that perfect. 

In the online world, wearing the mask of perfection is even easier than it is in the offline dating environment. The virtual nature of the interactions allows people to shape their identity, personality and even look precisely how they want, and it is challenging for the other person to know the truth, especially at the beginning. 

So, if you meet someone who simply seems perfect (good-looking, with financial success, a pet lover, empathic, etc.), don’t immediately fall for that because the chances are that person is actually not that good. There can be a scam behind that “perfection.”  

What can you do to find out whether they are as good as they seem or not? Research them! And, we’re not talking about researching them in a creepy way of scrolling on their social media to their first post ever. However, do make sure that the person really exists. Here are some strategies: 

  • Search their name on social media to see if they have actual profiles that tell everything they are telling you in your conversations;
  • Search their name on google and see if there’s an article mentioning a scam that includes the same fake name;
  • See if other real profiles have liked or commented on their posts.

Ask them to meet face-to-face 

Another thing that can really be a warning sign regarding the identity of a person you meet online is their refusal to meet in person. 

A catfish will do anything possible to prevent face-to-face meetings as that would expose their fake identity. So, they might tell you that they live in a very far country, that they can’t travel for some reason, or even if they agree to meet, they might find a last-minute excuse to avoid that. 

Ask the person you’re dating online to meet you in person and see how they respond to that. A direct refusal or attempt to avoid that is a red sign that you should consider.  

Don’t fall for very early romance signs 

Let’s be honest, even in the offline world, love at first sight is a very rare phenomenon. While not impossible, it is pretty difficult for two people to fall for each other irremediably and decide they love or want to spend their future together in a matter of days or even weeks. When this happens, the chances for it to be real love are pretty small, so naturally, there seems to be something fishy there. 

The story is the same in the online dating world. Sharing a few messages with someone, even if you do discuss some intense topics, doesn’t mean that you’re now in a relationship. But a catfish would definitely want you to believe that. 

So, if the relationship is moving too quickly and you get huge promises like “I love you” or “I can’t live without you” within a few days, that’s a significant sign that you may be a victim of a catfish. Make sure that you don’t fall for this, no matter how eager you are to find your soulmate. Try to remain anchored in reality and determine objectively if the person really means what they are saying or not. 

Don’t offer the person money 

We simply can’t stress this one enough: do not send money to people you meet online. 

No matter how legit the person seems, you shouldn’t send them money. Think about it: a person that is in the online world for finding their soulmate, just as you are, would never ask for money. However, a scammer would definitely do so. 

No matter the reason they are giving you, or how small the amount is, do not let yourself be fooled by the romantic scammer trying to get money from you. 

Don’t share your personal data 

Last but not least, know that ill-intentioned Internet users often use catfishing to obtain something other than money. More precisely, they are aiming to get their victim’s personal data which they can later use for illegal activities. 

If you have doubts related to the legitimacy of the person you’re chatting with online, avoid providing them with any of your personal data, like email, phone number, financial details, address, passwords, and others. In fact, it would be best if you wouldn’t share such data with anyone, no matter how close your relationship seems to be. 

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