I Was Snared By A Catfish: Beware The Warning Signs
A male friend of mine said the other day that he thinks people have to be “pretty stupid” to be snared by a catfish (in case you haven’t heard this term it means “an online phony”). He said that the signs and warnings are obvious — so really, if someone gets duped, shame on him/her.
I, personally, disagree with him. I don’t think getting conned is necessarily a result of “stupidity” so much as that people are naive…trusting…and new to online social scenes, like dating sites. Cause that was the case with me: Seven years ago when I was fresh into my divorce journey, I, Delaine Moore, got catfished.
Luckily, I didn’t pay too big a price tag for my mistake – he bruised my heart, but didn’t break it. But I felt pretty sick to my stomach for days afterwards. For I’d spoken to him online for six months. I’d opened up and told him things I wouldn’t have had I known he was an impostor. Only in retrospect were the signs of he being a phony flashing in neon:
He looked like a model in his pictures.
Long dark hair, chiselled jawline and dark and intense blue: Llittle did I know that the eyes that I dreamily stared into on my computer screen weren’t his. This is a common red flag with catfish: They look like a model from a magazine cover magazine, because that’s where their image was stolen from. Other red flags to watch for include: his face isn’t fully visible in all his shots (maybe he focuses on his rippled chest…) and/or the photos are so artistic that you can’t quite know for sure it’s the same man.
If only I’d known then about “Reverse Image Search”. If you Google those three keywords, you’ll arrive at a page where you can upload others people’s photos and Google will comb the internet looking for similar ones. If I’d done that from the get-go, I’d have seen his photo was part of male romance novel collection.
He wouldn’t talk to me on the phone.
He said he lived in a remote part of North Carolina, and cell service was sporadic at best. He “tried” a couple of times to call me… but of course, the connection never worked. It just makes sense that if someone is real and genuinely interested in you, they’ll want to move off the keyboard, actually hear your voice, and have conversations with you over the phone. He said video chat wasn’t an option
He said he didn’t have a webcam. And quite frankly, I was fine with not webcamming because the whole idea of it creeped me out. Yet if I’d insisted he buy one and hop on there for just five minutes, I would have confirmed his (non) identity. He should have wanted to confirm mine, too.
He never spoke of meeting me in person.
Given that he lived in another country, I didn’t blame him for not pushing to meet. But given the feelings he said he had for me, really, people take planes all the time. When two people connect and both are real, they’ll want to meet face-to-face, at least once, and sooner verses later, don’t you think?
No sign of him elsewhere on the Internet.
Of course I Googled his (fake) name to try and learn more about him. But my searches came up empty – no address, no phone number, no FB account, no little mention in a local newspaper, no nothing. Very few people have nothing about themselves on the Internet these days. If there’s absolutely no trail or sign of their existence, it could well be because they don’t.
He seemed too good to be true.
He was handsome, smart, deep, an excellent writer, wealthy, well-endowed (so he said) and of course, very single and very smitten with me. A part of me squealed, “pinch me, he’s almost too good to be true” – as if the universe had delivered me a romance cover rogue/knight, to save me from all the turmoil my divorce had brought my way .
Well, the pinch finally came — in the form of an email – from another woman he was communicating with online. Turns out she, unlike me, had done some investigating: His photos were stolen, his family didn’t exist, and God knows what else was lies, all lies…
So take it from a woman who’s been catfished: Do your homework on anyone you meet online and don’t be blind to any of these signs. Secondly, don’t underestimate the power of online connections: Getting close and attached to someone can happen easier and faster than you think. Last but not least, if you’re new to the online world and perhaps in a vulnerable emotional state (ie, because of divorce), recognize you are a catfish’s perfect prey. You are in brand new waters, my friend – arm yourself against predators with smarts and caution.
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