Nowadays many people use online dating. We all know not to go on a blind date to someone’s house, not to get in a car with a stranger. But this article will be a little different story. A new trend appeared in the USA recently. It is called “catfish” (the name originated from the film, which was shot by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman). If you are interesting in the article, watch the movie as well.
Catfish, is an English expression for a person who pretends to be someone else through social media. Perhaps you can imagine how it goes. A man on online dating or Facebook creates an account under a different name with photos that he stole from someone else. Sometimes people establish fake accounts to lure others with intimate photos, to write obscene messages or get back on someone. Usually people lie about age, weight or their marital status.
In the US, however, it became a profitable business. Actually, not so much in the US, as in Nigeria. In Nigeria, there are organized groups that sit in an internet cafe and open accounts on US online dating sites. The intention is to meet elderly Americans who crave partner, love and understanding. Scammers strike initial contact with them and the relationship starts to be very emotional quickly where they talk together several times a day via e-mails, text messages or calls. The scenario is then almost identical. The fraudster claims to be in Nigeria or elsewhere abroad, and waits for the release of a sum of money so that he could return to the US. For various reasons, he needs money for lawyers, fines, tickets etc. Usually the victim sends some money. And then begins a vicious circle. Fraudsters claim various dramatic events – accidents, illnesses, imprisonments, arrests at the airport, deaths in the families – because the victim does not want to admit that they were duped, they send the money and believe that when their partner manages to arrive back to US all the money will be returned. I think, it works on the same principle as the slot machines, the more people “feed the machine” with money, the more they do not want to admit that the money would never be seen again. The difference is that the slot machine won’t promise to spend the rest of its life with you. And yet, a lot of people throw their entire savings to it. So it is logical that the “catfish” scam can work as well.
Although it’s sad, at least there is a clear intention from the fraudsters why do they pretend to be someone else and build a relationship with the victim. I guess you can say that at the moment someone would ask for money, communication would stop immediately. Good for you. What if they would not ask for money?
There is a second trend. People strike false relationships with others, only to satisfy the need for emotional proximity, entertainment, dominance or adrenaline. I’ve seen some videos where people on Facebook added a person they did not know. Based on their attractive photos they began to communicate. The person never asked for money or inappropriate pictures, so there was no reason to balk. So as that they usually began a friendship that over time became intimate. Some victims started to share their everyday problems, confide to them daily or even had phone sex. They found in their partner understanding and closeness, even if they never saw each other. When they pushed the impostor to meet, he usually after several excuses staged a serious illness, the death of his character or similar event, which was communicated to the victims through fictitious family members. The victims in these cases were shocked by this tragic event. When they discovered that that person did not even exist, they were confused, felt abused and it undermined their ability to trust others, lowered their self-esteem, sometimes even lead to close oneself from the world and fall into depression.
Why to lie and fake an intimate relationship with someone for several months? Scammers were usually led to do so by the need to escape from the dull reality of their lives … They could be described as emotional vampires. Often, their lives were so boring and frustrating that they created a fictional character that was interesting, amusing, had a life full of successes and adventures and they so much delved into their new world, that they became dependent on their role and had a problem to end their fictitious life. It is interesting that in the cases I saw the cheaters were women who impersonated men and followed an intimate relationship with women, even if they were heterosexual. Generally, the victims were usually women and men, mostly young, beautiful and intelligent, like many of us.
So how do you avoid disappointment or abuse from predators who want to mess with your feelings?
1. Do not share too much with strangers on the internet. It’s okay to complain in a forum where people encountered similar problems in life. Do not complain about your problems for long time with only one individual that could exploit your information and manipulate you.
2. If you get acquainted with people through online dating services do not run long conversations before you meet. People can act in written form quite differently than in reality. Always arrange a meeting after few days in order to limit the exposure to the possibility of being disappointed if the reality is somewhat different than your expectations.
3. Do not strike intimate relationships over the phone or Internet. If you did not see the person in real life, never cross the boundaries of intimacy.
4. If your partner has another excuse every time he cannot see you, he probably does not want to. Put your ultimatum on how many times you ask someone to meet before giving up.
5. If you have children, you are responsible for them. Although children can nowadays use the Internet, or computers in general, better than some adults, they do not have enough sense to discern who communicates with them over the network and what behavior is inappropriate. There are monitoring systems that will tell you which sites your children spend time on or you can choose to have your computer disconnected from the Internet after a few hours.
6. Communicate with your children about the possible dangers of the Internet, pay close attention to how much time they spend in such activities and whether they have enough friends or hobbies outside the online world. Watch out for any changes in their behavior and habits.
Do you think it cannot happen to you? I personally had one unpleasant experience. I met a guy from online dating, which was actually verbally aggressive and very annoying, although at first glance seemed like a nice person. Have you got yourself some interesting or unpleasant experience online?