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What is Catfishing, and How Can You Avoid It?

It’s no secret that cats get a bad rap, and catfishing is certainly no exception to the rule, especially in dating.
Catfish Story

Catfish Story

It’s no secret that cats get a bad rap, and catfishing is certainly no exception to the rule, especially in dating. If you haven’t been a victim of it, you’re truly one of the lucky ones.

For those who’ve been catfishing victims, you know what I’m about to explain. For those unfamiliar with catfishing, listen up because not only am I going to help you identify when it’s happening, but I’m going to give you some tips on how to avoid falling prey.

But first, let’s begin with a discussion of what catfishing is.


Catfishing is an online scam where the catfisher pretends to be someone they’re not. The catfisher then zeroes in on their target, usually with the intention of getting that target to fall in love with them so they can ask for money. It should be noted that there can be other reasons for catfishing, discussed below.

Catfishers lure their prey through various means that generally build over time. The deception can involve sending online messages or texts as well as images of individuals they pretend are them. Depending on the catfisher’s style, there may also be emails, letters, and phone calls.

Once the catfisher gains their target’s trust, they’ll move in for what they’re really after, which isn’t love. They’ll often say they need “help” to accomplish some type of task, such as meeting their target in person. Depending on the catfisher’s goal, this in-person meeting will likely never occur.

With financial catfishing, once the target sends the payment the catfisher requested, the promise of a visit goes unfulfilled. At that time, either the catfisher disappears or comes up with further excuses about why they need more money to accomplish their goal. This can go on for as long as the target stays hooked.


The reasons for catfishing vary, and you’ll likely never know why someone was motivated to do it in the first place. A common reason for catfishing is money. Other reasons people catfish are to stalk or harass their target, cyberbully them, have the target perform illegal acts on the catfisher’s behalf, sexually abuse the target, and for the purposes of obtaining information from the target. Yet another is loneliness.

Sometimes there is more than one reason for catfishing, as revealed in the recent Netflix documentary, “Untold: The Girlfriend Who Didn’t Exist.” The two-hour documentary details the story of Hawaiin-born Notre Dame football player Manti Te’o, who was catfished online.

A rising football star who appeared both intelligent and kind, he demonstrated how easy it is to become the victim of catfishing. Not to mention the damage it can cause, which can be far-reaching and long-lasting.


Fortunately, a catfisher often exhibits certain signs that they may not be on the up and up. The most common of them are:

  • They have no online presence or one that is very limited. (A caveat: some catfishers are skilled at creating what appears to be a well-developed social media presence.)

  • When pressed, they decline any interactions, such as FaceTime or in-person meetings.

  • Their profile was created very recently. (They may have numerous posts within a short period of time to make the profile appear older than it is, so always look at the dates of the posts).

  • The pictures appear to be professional or stock photos. Or something about the photos makes you suspect the images may have been stolen. (Tip: If you’re suspicious, try doing an image search.)

  • The person asks you for money (or some other favor, including explicit photos) fairly quickly.

  • Your gut tells you something isn’t quite right.


Unfortunately, it’s pretty difficult to avoid attempts from catfishers altogether, even if you keep your social media accounts private and are protective of your personal information. People who catfish can be pretty crafty and persistent when they want something.  


  • Your intuition is your best friend, so be sure to listen to them if they’re whispering in your ear that something smells fishy about an interaction online.

  • Don’t honor the catfisher’s request; don’t send money, photos, or anything else the catfisher requests, including personal information.

  • Block the suspicious account.

  • Report the suspicious account to the platform it came from.


If you’ve already been a victim of catfishing and have, for example, sent money to an individual you now realize catfished you:

  • Block the suspicious account.

  • Report the suspicious account to the platform it came from.


According to recent data, as of January 2022, in the U.S. alone, 13% of those surveyed said they had “definitely believed they had interacted with a catfish online.” Seventeen percent said they “probably” did.

In the U.S., other data reveals that the average catfishing victim lost more than $15,000. Equally as disturbing, catfishing costs victims more than $187 million yearly.

The bottom line? Catfishing is a major problem that doesn’t appear to be going away anytime soon. But with enough attention, you can help prevent yourself from becoming a statistic. If you have any questions about your interactions online, I can help. Call me today.

Cassie Keim

CEO and Founder of Innovative Match



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