Don’t be conned out of love online

A friend of mine was enthralled with a man she had met online. When she told me about him, I couldn’t help but sneer at her gullibility. I knew she was being ‘catfished’ even before I had a look at the mystery guy’s Facebook profile. The blissful online romance had started a few days earlier when he sent her a friend request on Facebook and the rest, as they say, was history. She couldn’t believe her luck. The perfect guy had fallen into her laps! He told her he was paediatric surgeon in a hospital in Houston, Texas and was looking for a marriage-minded woman for a relationship. It seemed to me that my friend’s desire to find an ideal partner had outweighed her rational thinking. Anyone with half an eye could see the guy was a catfish. A catfish is described as someone who uses the anonymity of the internet to create a fake online identity. Usually, the aim is to lure somebody into a romantic relationship; to fleece them out of money, for personal gratification or simply to mess with their heads. Here are a few signs that you are dealing with a catfish:

If they seem too good to be true, they probably are

A single 30-something, drop-dead gorgeous, well-to-do paediatric surgeon; pfft! Sorry to burst your bubble, but you can’t be that lucky. Catfishes are never bartenders or taxi drivers or security guards. They are surgeons and law professors and pilots. They are rolling in dough and live an extravagant lifestyle. Don’t be too quick to believe everything he tells you about himself or what he has written on his profile.

The romance is random

Think about it. How many hot, C-suite executives do you think are seated at their luxury leather office chairs right now hitting up random women on another continent on Facebook? None! True, strangers do meet on Facebook and fall in love, but it is never random. You’ll find that they had shared interests on Facebook and were participating in the same groups. The likelihood of someone contacting you out of the blues and starting a relationship with you is very low.

Fake photos

My friend’s catfish was an amateur to say the least. A simple reverse image Google search revealed that he had lifted the pictures of a New York City mayor. Pro tip: If you are going to be a catfish, don’t use the photos of a well-known person like a politician or a celebrity. A catfish will have very few photos on his or her profile. If you suspect that the person you are talking to is not who they say they are, run the photos through reverse image Google search and see what comes up.

Suspicious profile

A catfish’s profile usually has a handful of contacts and no indication of a life outside Facebook. Even the most passive Facebook user has a few friends and relatives who comment on their photos and are tagged on other people’s photos and have a few “happy birthday” posts farom relatives. If they don’t, they are not real.

It has gotten too serious too soon

You’ve only been talking for a couple of days but you are already discussing whether you want to be a June or September bride. Catfishes move too quickly in the area of love and commitment. If a person you’ve met online seems to be falling for you and pushing the relationship forward after talking for a short while, they’re probably not real. Real intimacy takes time to build.

They ask you for money

This is usually the end goal for a catfish and you will see how fast the romance fizzles out if you decline to send them money. Why would someone hit up a perfect stranger for money instead of reaching out to friends and family? The catfish will come up with an elaborate story about why he needs the money and promises to pay back.