With more than 40 million Americans using online dating services and social media to find love, according to Match.com, there’s bound to be some scam artists. The term “Catfished” describes someone who is impersonating someone they’re not and engaging in online relations under false pretenses, similar to identity theft. This was the very subject that spawned the 2010 documentary, as well as the 2012 MTV series, Catfish, according to MTV.com. Without the help of these professional Catfish sleuths, it can be challenging to uncover who’s at the other end of your online encounters. Look for warning signs to prevent becoming a victim of a Catfish.
Protect Yourself Online
Never share your private information with someone that you meet online, no matter how much time you’ve spent emailing or IMing with them. While Facebook and other social media remain amazing technologies, they can be used against you. According to the Federal Trade Commission, there have been more than 27.3 million victims of identity theft in the past 5 years. Identity theft companies, like those found on www.identitytheftprotection.org, provide protection against identity fraud and help prevent criminals from vishing, phishing, pocket surfing, and accessing your funds.
Spot a Catfish
If you have doubts that the person you’re talking to online is actually who they say they are, go through the proper steps to track down their real persona. Use Google’s “Search by Image” feature to check for multiple Facebook profiles that may be using the same pictures. Catfish often use other people’s professional modeling pictures and pretend to have a higher status than they actually do. They’ll fake having a high-paying career that “keeps them too busy to meet in person”. Look for signs of a fake Facebook profile, such as a very low friend count, few comments from real people, or a lack of real information or effort put into the profile.
Track Your Online Persona
Your pictures and personal information could be available on the Internet without you even knowing. Online services, such as Google Alerts and Brandyourself.com, are free to use and will alert you when your name appears online. Verify your mailing address with both the post office and financial institutions, as scammers may fill out change-of-address forms to prevent you from receiving delinquent credit notices in the mail. Also, closely monitor your credit card and bank account statements. If you notice something awry, contact the financial institution or credit card company immediately to avoid getting catfished.
Know Your Rights
Social media sites like Facebook are constantly changing and upgrading their policy, as their Privacy page indicates. Most deem it a violation of their terms for users to misrepresent their identities. If you detect any type of fraud, Facebook suggests reporting the violation via your Timeline options, blocking the person, and submitting a report by following the on-screen directions. Victims of identity theft can also report fake accounts to Facebook, and the fraudulent account will promptly be taken down.
Approach Online Dating with Caution
Use the same approach to online dating as you would with someone you meet in the supermarket. You wouldn’t immediately fall in love and give that individual personal information. Get to know someone well before providing too much information about your personal life. To ensure that the person you are talking to is who they say they are, ask them to video chat. People you meet online should never ask for money or other things of value if they’re sincere. Consider these situations a warning sign that something is amiss and avoid contact with individuals who are simply trying to scam you.
Let us know how you stay safe in the comments below!