Catfishing: The New Online Threat

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FALLING IN LOVE WITH PEOPLE ONLINE IS NOT NEW, BUT FALLING IN LOVE WITH IMAGINARY PEOPLE ONLINE IS A NEW AND NEFARIOUS SCAM. SOHAM BHAUMIK GUIDES YOU THROUGH THE CHOPPY WATERS OF CATFISHING

WHO’S A CATFISH?
A catfish is a person who creates fake personal profiles on social media websites, thereby portraying somebody else – usually somebody more outwardly appealing than his/her true self. These catfish usually intend to trick other unsuspecting social media users into getting romantically involved with them. The pictures on the profile are borrowed from elsewhere and the biographical information provided is entirely false. It must’ve been more than once that you’ve received emails from scam artists stating that you’ve won over a million dollars. With catfish, it’s almost the same. They’ll look to steal or affect your personal information and identity, get you romantically involved and then scam you for money.
If not obvious, pretending to be a Tony Stark with hobbies such as flying around in an iron suit is NOT cool.

WHAT’S THE DEAL AND WHY?
Whether it is out of revenge, curiosity, boredom or loneliness, an emerging class of internet predators cite dozens of reasons for scamming their way into romantic relationships with unsuspecting victims. In a recent study, as per Eric Qualman, the author of the popular Socialnomics, every 1 out of 5 relationships begins online.
Online identity theft is dangerous, and outcomes have been disastrous on many occasions. From Ray Holycross, the Internet Casanova who used various aliases to scam 38 women in seven states in the United States, to the Manti Teo hoax in which American footballer Manti Teo fell for an imaginary woman, to people who have been attacked or even murdered by people they’ve met online, examples are aplenty.

PROTECTING YOURSELF
The internet wasn’t meant to create liars or cheats. Let’s face it; it is entirely on you to protect yourself from online catfishing. Here are a few tips that might help you to start off on the right track with a stranger you meet on the internet.

* NO PICTURES
If the person on the other side cannot provide you with his/her picture right away in this day and age, proceed with caution.

* STRANGE FACEBOOK PROFILE
If a person sounds internet savvy enough, but doesn’t have a Facebook profile yet, beware! If, however, the person does pass this test, proceed to check the authenticity of the data in his/her profile. Use your logic and common sense. For example, a person about 6’2” tall is very unlikely to weigh only 50 kg. Another tip could be to check out that person’s pictures and albums. A lot of  pictures in which the person appears with others, but the others are not tagged, could spell danger. Probably the pictures were lifted from an unsuspecting individual’s photo albums.

* NO WEBCAM
If a person refuses to engage in a chat via a webcam even after repeated requests, it could mean that the person does not want you to see who he/she actually might be.

* TRAUMATIC INJURIES/ILLNESS
A lot of car accidents, deaths in the family, cancer, etc based scenarios have been seen in catfishing scams. Logically enough, these are within the best excuses to avoid meeting up and derail suspicion.

* PROTECT YOUR PERSONAL INFORMATION
Whenever you’re signing up for online services, especially those such as online dating services, use a separate email address dedicated to that website. While filling up your profile you need not fill in extraneous details such as the link to your Facebook page, work details, etc. As an added precaution, use dating websites that are not free. The free websites attract the shadiest people.

* USE YOUR INSTINCTS
There are a lot of times when people say they’re travelling, but somehow never travel anywhere near you. Watch out.

* NO PHONE
If the person claims he/she doesn’t have a phone or won’t speak with you on the phone, or if the person does so, but seems to talk vaguely even after an extended period of interaction, you need to watch out.

* TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE
When a person appears too good to be true, especially as a dashing model with another equally lucrative career on the side, proceed with caution. It is incredibly easy to access model photos online and post them as your own. At the end of it all, you are who is left with his/her power of judgement as the most potent tool. Choose wisely, stay safe and most importantly, look before you leap.

TACKLING CATFISHING
•     Google Goggles is an application you may use to uncover previous occurrences of a picture you have come across in someone’s profile.
•     Alternatively, on Google Images, upload the picture. If the image search  yields the same picture under various names, you know it’s not legit.
•     If you think you are a victim of catfishing, you may file a complaint with the    Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov

 

Volume 3 Issue 8

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