8 Signs of Catfishing in Online Dating

Catch a catfish online — here are the signs of catfishing and what to do if you think you’re being catfished.

Online dating has many benefits, from convenience to being able to meet a wide variety of people. But one thing that has arisen in the digital dating age is catfishing. As you interact with people online in your journey to find your person, it’s crucial to know the signs of catfishing — not only to protect your finances but also to guard your heart. 

Read on to find out about what catfishing is, why people do it, and what to do if you find yourself in this situation.

What Is Catfishing?

Catfishing is dating lingo for when someone creates a fake online identity in the hopes of tricking another person into having some sort of relationship with them, typically a romantic one. 

Why Do People Catfish?

There are several reasons why someone might start catfishing, the most prominent one being loneliness. Individuals who are experiencing loneliness aren’t receiving the emotional connections they need; so some turn to online catfishing as a way to simulate interpersonal relationships. 

Low self-esteem can also be a culprit. People who catfish in dating often have low self-esteem regarding looks or personality. Instead of overcoming insecurities when dating, they use photos of other people that they think will be more successful than they are at developing romantic relationships. 

Additionally, many people catfish as a mode of cyberbullying or even committing financial fraud. 

No matter the reason why people catfish, the thrill of deception can be addicting.

Signs of Catfishing

While you’re dating, it’s important to know how to spot a catfish. After all, in our increasingly online world, the ability to deceive through catfishing is easier than ever. Be aware of the following signs of catfishing so that you’re never caught off guard.

1. Their Story Doesn’t Add Up

It’s common for people to amplify their accomplishments, travels, or lifestyle on dating profiles, so learning that the person you’re talking to has exaggerated a detail or two isn’t immediately cause for alarm. What is cause for alarm is if parts of their story keep changing, they backtrack on things they’ve told you before, or they share elaborate stories about their life or situation that just sound made up.

2. Their Social Media Accounts Seem “Off”

People use social media differently. Some have a smaller presence, with only a few followers and infrequent posts, while others might not be on social media at all. It’s not abnormal to not be active on social media, but when it comes to signs of catfishing, here’s what to look out for: 

  • A newly created account, perhaps with only one profile picture (like on Facebook) or only recent posts
  • No, or very few, followers
  • Their oldest posts are from around the time you started chatting
  • The same photos are used between their social media and dating profiles
  • No one has interacted with their account

If they don’t have a social media presence at all, there’s no need to worry just yet, especially if they don’t exhibit any other signs of catfishing. But if you start getting a weird feeling, no social media presence might be a red flag.

3. Their Dating Profile Is Incomplete

Incomplete details can be a dating profile red flag (and a catfishing sign). Maybe they’re missing some info, like job, city, or interests, or have included only blurry or strangely cropped photos. Leaving out information from a dating profile might mean that this person is trying to hide something.

4. They Won’t Meet in Person

One of the key examples of catfishing is that they refuse to meet in person. Once you’ve talked with someone you met on a dating app or online, the next step is usually meeting in person or through video chat. But someone who is catfishing you can’t meet face to face — or else you’ll know immediately that they aren’t who they say they are. 

You might be thinking, “They keep scheduling a meetup, but they’re just busy, so they have to cancel — no big deal.” Yes, this might be true, but continually coming up with excuses to not meet in person is a telltale sign of catfishing.

5. They’re Cagey About Sharing More Pictures of Themselves

Let’s say that the person you’re talking to online has some pretty convincing reasons for not meeting in person: they don’t live in your city, they’re traveling and don’t have good Wi-Fi, and so on. If you can’t see them face to face, the next step is exchanging more photos, right? 

Someone who is catfishing you won’t share more pictures beyond what’s on their dating or social media profiles. And they’re especially not going to be sending spontaneous selfies.

This isn’t blind dating; it’s cause for concern.

6. They Won’t Talk on the Phone

By now, you’re probably sensing a theme. People who are catfishing won’t meet in person (or on FaceTime), won’t share photos, and won’t talk on the phone. This is all in an effort to protect their identity.

7. They Ask for Money

Not all catfishers are in it for the financial fraud, but many are. If the person you’re dating online asks you for money, that is a major sign of catfishing. Their stories about why they need the money might be elaborate, but they also might be quite tame, like needing to cover rent, pay for a medical bill, or other similar situations. They’ll typically use emotional manipulation or simply rely on the emotional connection you have to get what they want.

8. They’re Overly Romantic

If things get hot and heavy too fast, it’s not necessarily a red flag, but if it’s paired with some of the other signs listed here, then you might have a catfish on your hands. 

People who catfish often start romantic online relationships as a way to woo their victim and get what they want (emotional manipulation, money, etc.). Love bombing is an easy method for gaining power and control over another person. The catfisher might love bomb by being over the top in flattery, declaring their love, and communicating with you constantly. 

What to Do If You Think You’re Being Catfished

Now that you know how to spot a catfish, here’s what to do if you find yourself in this situation. 

Don’t Overshare

One of the best dating safety tips is to keep your personal information private. When you’re talking to someone online, don’t share sensitive details until you trust them.

Never Send Money

This goes without saying, but we’ll say it anyway. Never send money to someone you’ve met online. Even if you’ve been communicating for awhile, it still isn’t a good idea. Asking someone for money is a dating red flag.

Do a Google Reverse Image Search 

If you have a hunch that something isn’t right, do a Google reverse image search to see if their photos appear elsewhere online. If so, you might be being catfished.

Tell a Friend

Having outside eyes on the situation can help you see the signs of catfishing that you weren’t noticing before, like strange texting behaviors, a story that doesn’t add up, or incomplete social profiles. Telling a trusted friend or family member about the dating relationship is your best bet if you’re not sure.

Block and/or Report Them

If you think you’re being catfished, stop all communication. While it’s always a good idea to reject someone nicely, in the case of catfishing, it’s not necessary. Stop responding, block their phone number, and block them on social media. 

Although there aren’t specific catfishing laws in the United States, you can report a financial scam to the FTC as well as report the catfisher’s profile to dating apps and social media platforms so that they can take separate action.

The bottom line? If you notice the signs of catfishing in your own dating experience, protecting yourself comes first.

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