In the online dating world, scammers are called “Catfishers” and they are all over the dating sites. To “catfish” means to lure someone into a relationship by means of a fictional online persona. They target everyone and you don’t have to be rich or dumb to fall victim to them. The common denominator is that you are online looking for love, which makes you more vulnerable. The catfishers don’t want you; they want entrance to your heart as the gateway to your money. How to spot a one is a good way not to fall victim to them.
- ESL: English as a Second Language: Not everyone who speaks (or writes) with an accent is a catfish but I’ve noticed certain phrases that they use that “real” people don’t. One in particular is the misuse of the word “will”; “ I will like to get to meet you” along with being overly polite and complimentary. An example of an actual message:
“My Dear your eyes alone can melt mans heart including mine.your absolutely beautiful and nice looking.I hope your doing great over..? I will love to be your friend if you don’t mind.?try and keep in touch. Xxooxx”
- Name, rank, serial number: Another red flag; they introduce themselves as a military man and/or their photo is in uniform and often handsome and sometimes younger. Copy their name and/or image and search Google. Odds are they don’t exist or you’ll see a website that is about internet scammers and you’ll see the exact words they used in their message to you attributed to many other scammers. Here’s another actual message I once received: “I’m Sgt. Rich Wilson from San Jose, CA. I am a US Army. Please add me to your yahoo messenger with firstname.lastname@example.org or email me or better still send your yahoo ID here so i can add you to my YM for easy communication so we can know better. This is because some times we are not allowed access to face book here in camp. It will really be my pleasure to talk to you again. Regards Rich.
- Wants to move to email immediately (see actual message in #2) because: They claim they are in the military and on the move without access to internet. OR: They don’t log in to the dating site often and want to be able to communicate with you. Rushing to an email account is an immediate red flag. Do NOT give them your email address! DO NOT write to them! Do not chat on an Instant Messenger! Wave that flag and move on! The longer catfishers are on a site they’re more likely to get caught, That’s why they rush you to communicate off the site.
- Geography: Quite often their profile states that they live in a close proximity to you (close enough). You know where you live so test them. If they said they live, let’s say on the North side of the area where you live, write something like: “Oh that’s so cool to be near “insert local landmark here”, (knowing all the while that the landmark is as far from the North side of town as you can get). If they live in a neighboring state, google their town and search for a famous landmark and ask them how close they live to it or again try “Oh that’s so cool to be near “insert that landmark here”. They will trip up easily and often will disappear from the chat.
- Love knows no barriers: You can state that you’re an atheist and they will write to you and say they are “a god-fearing” person. Your profile can state that you want to date someone locally and they will write to you saying they live hundreds or thousands of miles away. No matter what objections you throw at them they will try to overcome it by saying that when you have “true love” (a phrase they use often) geography or religion shouldn’t matter and “wouldn’t you travel anywhere for true love?” They will also state that they’d be willing to relocate (as if you invited them to live in your home!)
Prevention is the first step. Should you have fallen victim and took their bait, stay tuned for what to look for as they try to reel you in!