That handsome guy or that beautiful girl you befriended on social media platform turned out to be fake! Sounds familiar? This is a catfish scam. Catfish refers to a scam where a person hides his/her true identity by creating a non-existential identity to cultivate a fake, online persona.
The rise of social media, increasing use of smartphones, and the ease with which social media users can copy pictures and data off other profiles, there has been a corresponding rise in the catfish scam.
Catfishing is a complex problem that is steadily growing. There are multiple motivations driving a social media user into doing what (s)he chooses to do. Many fake users manipulate these fraudulent accounts to deceive others in multiple ways. Online dating scams, selling stolen goods at throw-away prices, and social engineering are some of the ways crooks may use these fraudulent accounts. That said, it must be mentioned here that catfish is not always bad.
Some users resort to social catfish—deception without a financial motive—purely due to psychological reasons. Social media provides them with an outlet to vent their pent-up emotions. A number of social media users resort to social catfish to fight loneliness by cultivating online friendships with random people who they can ‘talk’ to. In some cases, users who consider themselves average-looking create fraudulent accounts with attractive pictures of unknown people. Under this guise, they look for romance online as they are not too confident in the offline world. Younger users who would otherwise not qualify due to age criterion, lie about their age in order to access and explore these platforms. In some extreme cases, social catfishing can even become an addiction.
While catfishing is not a criminal act as long as it does not involve fraud, it does cause stress to the victims. Therefore, finding a solution to this problem is not that simple. Exercising adequate caution while accepting invites and not sharing personal information with strangers can help fight this rising menace.
The article has been written by Neetu Katyal, content and marketing consultant
She can be reached on LinkedIn.