How to Spot a Catfish

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Have you met someone online and you’re not sure if they are who they say they are? By the end of this video, you will know the key signs that you are being catfished online and what to do if you fall victim to it.

Hi. I’m Dayra Schmidt. The term catfishing refers to when a person takes information and images, typically from other people, and uses them to create a new virtual identity for themselves and lure unsuspecting individuals into having a romantic relationship with them. It is very common among dating websites and social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Ashley Madison, and affects millions of people each year. Catfishing is typically the precursor to further unlawful actions such as sextortion, online extortion, and revenge porn.

In this video, I’m going to explain the top signs to look for if you think you’re being catfished, how to avoid becoming a victim in these situations, and what to do if you have unfortunately found yourself the victim of catfishing.

Strategies to Spot a Catfisher

One of the biggest red flags when talking to people online is how the relationship is initiated. Receiving a friend request online from someone you’ve never met with no mutual friends or followers should give anyone pause. Take a look at their profile to check if it was made recently or if they have very few friends, followers, or content on their page. Newer profiles or profiles with little interaction with their “friends” usually indicates they are catfishers, trolls or burner accounts.

They Only Have Professional or Model-Like Photos

Do they only have professional or model-like photos posted? If they only have bikini or extremely filtered photos and not a single photo of them enjoying the simple things in life like a slice of pizza, then your spidey sense should be tingling. Another very overlooked clue of a catfish is having watermarked photos from professional photographers or other dating sites on their profile.

Check For Language and Location Discrepancies

Sometimes it’s much easier to spot a catfishing attempt because the facts just simply don’t add up. Be cognizant of the language being used in their messages for broken English, many one-sentence messages in a row instead of paragraphs, and odd use of capitalization and punctuation like overuse of exclamation marks or writing in all caps. Not to say that English is everybody’s first language, but if someone is posing as a former cheerleader who has lived in Omaha, Nebraska, their whole life, then they should have a proper grasp on their native language.

Make sure the setting matches their location. For example, if someone says they live in Alaska and all of their pictures are of beaches and palm trees, then they may not be telling you the whole story. Lastly, keep in mind what specific times they’re communicating with you. Are they messaging you at the time when people would likely be in a deep sleep? Many of the catfishing schemes they have encountered have come from very different time zones, like the Philippines, Ivory Coast, or Morocco.

Learn About Common Catfishing Scenarios

Impersonating a celebrity or socialite who is looking to settle down or posing as a military member with a secret job are two extremely common scenarios where one might look back and say, what was I thinking? Women especially fall for the scams where they fall in love with an attractive military man who just so happens to have a top secret job overseas, and that is why they can’t talk to them on the phone or video chat.

Things Turn Sexual Fast – Red Flag

Scammers in the sextortion category of catfishing treat their schemes like a career. Their job is to quickly gain your trust and your intimate images in a very short period of time, so their messages to you will often quickly turn sexual after a quick introduction. Some good old-fashioned Internet fun is nothing to be ashamed of, but if a mysterious profile is asking you your name, location, marital status, occupation, and pictures of your naked body in a span of a few minutes, you should definitely reconsider moving forward with the conversation.

They Ask You For Money

Most people don’t ask for money from a person they have just met online. If someone is asking for money, especially if it accompanies the threat of sending your private messages, photos or videos and communications immediately. Many of our sextortion victims were tricked into sending money via wire transfers to foreign countries or cryptocurrency. When presented with the threat of having their intimate images released or by being told a very convincing sob story about an ill family member or a pet.

Preventative Measures

A catfisher’s main goal is to communicate with you without you discovering their true identity, so they almost always have constant “technical issues” or they outright refuse to show their face or talk on the phone. Many of our catfishing or sextortion victims reported consistent technical issues when attempting to chat face to face, including broken cameras and microphones, only allowing text or direct messages, and using sexually explicit videos that seem prerecorded. Be wary if your love interests asked to move your conversation to a different messaging app like Google Hangouts, WhatsApp, or Skype due to the technical issues. Chances are it’s a trap.

Check For Recycled or Fake Photos

A quick way to check if the person you’re chatting with has been using recycled photos is by conducting a reverse image search. This can be done by utilizing a reverse image tool on search engines like Google or premium facial recognition software like Pimeyes or Face Pinpoint. Keep in mind that these tools are generally limited to public photos and not content from private social media accounts. Before sending intimate images to them, try to get a picture of them doing or holding something specific, like a piece of paper with a code word on it. Also, avoid asking for pictures of their driver’s license or passport as proof, because these are easy to forge and all you need is access to the Internet.

Protect Your Information

Don’t give out your personal information like your full name without being 100% certain that this person is real. Many catfishers will scour the Internet looking for romantic or familial ties that they can use to blackmail you later if your relationship turns sexual. Better yet, update your security settings on your social media platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter to provide minimal public information.

If You’ve Been Catfished

If you have unfortunately found this video too late and have been the victim of a catfishing scheme gone wrong, don’t panic, because you’re not alone. Don’t pay a ransom to the catfisher if they ask, as this will encourage them to ask for more money since you’ve already complied with their demands the first time. Document any and all evidence that you have with this person, and use it to file a report with the FBI’s Internet Crimes Complaint Center. Lock down all of your social media profiles as much as you can, especially on platforms that tend to encourage public information like Twitter and LinkedIn.

Seeking Legal Assistance

If you are a victim of sextortion and web blackmail, we recommend reaching out to an experienced sextortion attorney. Doing so will not only save you time, but future headaches and hassle. Our attorneys at Minc Law have built up a wide array of cost-effective and savvy legal tactics over the years to quickly and efficiently combat sextortion and online blackmail. At Minc Law, we know being catfished or sextorted online can be overwhelming, and it can feel helpless.

If you are a victim of a catfishing scam, then contact the experienced attorneys at Minc Law today and get back to living your life worry-free. You can reach us by heading over to and submitting a contact form or by calling our office at 216-373-7706. I’m Dayra Schmidt from Minc Law. Thanks for watching.

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