The third Tuesday of September is the day where we celebrate the 'computer nerds' that help us all stay connected!
What is Catfishing and How You Can Avoid Being a Victim
Roses are red, violets are blue. Don't meet a catfish on Valentine's Day, or any other day too.
Annnnnnnd… in the spirit of Valentine’s Day, I thought it’d be an ideal time to talk about something happening more and more to people every day. Especially around the holidays which allow increased emotional reactions to certain content in posts, DMs, or emails you receive. Dun! Dun! Dunnnnnnn…. Catfishing!
Of course, I’m not referring to guys with long bushy beards, standing in muddy water holes grabbing catfish with their hands.
What is Catfishing?
If you’re not pickin’ up what I’m puttin’ down, here’s the definition of Catfishing per Wikipedia:
“Catfishing is a deceptive activity where a person creates a fictional persona or fake identity on a social networking service, usually targeting a specific victim. The practice may be used for financial gain, to compromise a victim in some way, as a way to intentionally upset a victim, or for wish fulfillment. Catfishing television shows have been produced, often featuring victims who wish to identify their catfishers. Celebrities have been targeted, which has brought press attention to catfishing practices.”
FYI - You can see an example of what catfishing is from the TV show "Catfish: The TV Show" that plays on the network MTV! The show was created to help people discover the true identity of his or her online romance, or the "catfish".
The Big Mistake
So, let’s say, you’re driving home from work on Valentine’s Day and maybe you’re kinda bummed about it (for whatever reason). You see several couples holding hands on their way to celebrate Valentine’s Day (makes sense). Oddly, you also see animals walking two by two as you drive and you’re like “meh, it seems like everyone has a date on Valentine’s Day except for me.” And then, you remember the movie you watched the night before. With an elderly couple and they have an old notebook… and he reads to her… and you’re like “awwww.” But.. maybe not. Remember this is all hypothetical, nevertheless, scammers take advantage of people’s vulnerabilities and use deceptive tactics to do so.
Okay! Now you’re home and checking social media (cause, of course, you’re not checking it at work) and there it is… someone sent you a DM full of compliments and/or romantic sentiments... and you’re like “awwww.”
*Disclaimer: Please bear with me through the rest of this example. Not necessarily everyone who sends you a complimentary DM is a catfisher but we’re talking about being safe online. Also, historically there are plenty of examples of far more horrendous types of catfishing, and this one is just intended to be funny (I think). Do your research. *
And so, you respond, then unknowingly you’re in a conversation with… dun! dun! dunnnnnn…. a Catfisher. Where does it go from here... who knows? Often though, soon enough it's a sob story like “my dog is in the hospital and needs life-saving surgery that costs $2000, and I don't have any money.” Now you're in the position where you think a dog's life is on the line – you're exactly where the catfisher wants you.
And you say, "well, do you have Venmo?" Dun! Dun! Dunnnnnn!!!
Unfortunately, this sort of thing happens all the time – money gone; people sad. Or it could be personal information gone; people sad. Or people doing things just because they can; people sad.
What Do We Do?
The main takeaway from this post is to get people to start thinking about security first when you’re online. Prevention is key!! It’s easier to prevent losing all your money and information than to have to either beg the catfisher to give it back (which rarely works) or call the police to explain the embarrassing mistake you made while trying to save your "girlfriend’s" dog in Timbuctoo – whom you’ve never met. Think about what you’re doing, where you are (the internet is a vast, sketchy place), so be cautious, know the warning signs and identify red flags. Do research, there is not one specific resolution to all this but there’s certainly more than one way to fish a cat. Haha! Get it?
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