Are You a Victim of CatPhishing?

Category: Security

'I have known men to fall in love by light so dim they would not choose a suit by it,' wrote Ambrose Bierce many years ago. Today, the light is not only dim but deceptive. Lonely people of all persuasions are at increasing risk of being preyed upon by phony romantic partners who not only aren’t what they seem to be, but may not exist at all! Read on to learn about catphishing...

What is CatPhishing?

San Diego Chargers linebacker Manti T’eo was the victim of such a cruel hoax. The All-American football player fell in love with a “woman” sight unseen through social media. The sports press made much of Manti’s dedication to “Lennay Kekau,” purportedly a Stanford University student who tragically died of leukemia.

But “Lennay” turned out to be a hoax, a fictitious personal elaborately crafted by a male acquaintance of Manti’s. This cruel trick was just a joke that went too far; but there are cases in which the love-smitten have been scam-bitten.

The practice of using a fake virtual persona to dupe a victim out of money (or just inflict emotional damage) is called “catphishing.” The neologism seems to be a play on “phishing” (using deceptive email to obtain sensitive information) and a Southern sport called “noodling,” in which large catfish are patiently enticed into chomping down on a probing hand which hauls them into the boat. Jeff Foxworthy meets the Internet!

What is CatPhishng?

Catphish lurk on dating sites passively waiting for bites. They also cast their lures around social media, offering friend requests on Facebook, Tweeting admiringly, and so on. Their objective is usually to fake romantic interest, engage the victim emotionally, and then pretend to have some sort of “problem” that only a generous electronic friend can solve with money.

For more information on Phishing, see Phishing: Are You Protected? and Spear Phishing and Internet Security

Patriotism is another emotion to which catphish appeal. A Colorado mother-daughter team conned over 350 people by posing as American soldiers in Afghanistan. Their phishing holes were dating sites because that is where all the lonely people come. They sucked up over $1 million worth of “the kindness of strangers” before they were caught.

How to Spot an Online CatPhisher

Catphish are easy to spot if your vision is unclouded by emotion. Some of their telltale traits are:

  • They never are able to meet in person; they are only available online or via phone call
  • They are charming, flattering, sympathetic, and chatty;
  • Claim to be U.S. citizens, but are always living in distant places for “international business” or military service
  • They quickly talk about love and their eagerness for a romantic relationship
  • They ask for your home address in order to send you gifts
  • They often have young children, another sympathy draw
  • They have sudden, bizarre financial difficulties
  • Also, once you help catphish financially, they will soon be back with bigger needs.

I've been in the position of watching some of these scams as a middle man, and for a while, I didn't understand what was going on. In addition to my duties at AskBobRankin, I also operate FlowersFast, an online florist service. Occasionally, I see orders from "customers" using stolen credit cards and obviously fake U.S. addresses. A quick check of their IP address typically shows they're actually in Nigeria or Russia. But the recipients are real, and the messages that the senders attach to the bouquets speak of undying love. Sometimes these scammers unwittingly provide enough information, that I can find their profiles on sketchy dating sites.

If you say you don’t have any money, a catphish may find someone else to send you a money order, asking you to cash it and wire the money. Invariably, the money order is counterfeit and you end up losing cash.

Of course, the Internet is just a new medium for this old scam, and “catphishing” is just a new term for this type of fraud. Still, it persists because there are always people on whom it works. Don’t be one of those.

Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...

 
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Most recent comments on "Are You a Victim of CatPhishing?"

Posted by:

Thomas
26 Jul 2013

Get these knowing its a scam even on yahoo messenger like having fun with these people when they ask for money i tell them i cant get into my trust fund lol.


Posted by:

salim
26 Jul 2013

if i ever encounter people like this, & i have the opportunity to engage in a non-compromising way, i follow Peter & John's example as found in the Book of Acts. When they were asked for money, they said "silver or gold have we not, but such as we have give we thee". withouth caving in to give financial assistance, Offering to pray for people that ask for money in situations like this could be proven as a good litmus test to the genuiness of a person. Although this sounds innocent to some, it's worked for me so far.
God bless youn all!


Posted by:

Carole
26 Jul 2013

I could tell you stories about meeting online, you wouldn't believe. It had to do with murder, robbery, bigamy and a lot of other issues. I knew the vice president of Match.com and other people who wrote books on this subject. There is certain things you need to do before meeting someone you have met on the internet as a safe guard. I could write a long article regarding this issue.


Posted by:

AS400rus
27 Jul 2013

Dear Bob,
I just wanted to help persons who have Adware and cannot remove it.
Please ask them to use:
MELWAREBYTE AM and they will get rid of the adware and any other Melware lurking on their system.
Some one helped me so I want to share.

thank you, kindly pass this on.


Posted by:

KatieA
27 Jul 2013

I had a good friend who started to get taken in by one of these Nigerian scammers who she met on a legitimate dating website. She was able to stop the relationship before it went too far, luckily.

She didn't know it was a scam at first, but then the scammer started to "ramp up" the relationship rather quickly, by wanting to meet her, and the turning point where something was "wrong" was when he asked her for money when he was "stuck" somewhere in some country, and "couldn't get out without her help."

I helped her figure out that he was trying to scam her, as she was not familiar with Nigerian scams at the time.

She was able to take action and reported him to the dating site where they removed his profile, and she also forwarded the information to the necessary authorities.


Posted by:

David
30 Jul 2013

Online romance is no more dangerous than IRL ("in real life"). Watch Judge Judy for a week and you will see at least three people who get taken for thousands of dollars by low-lives they met at laundromats. JJ's usual advice to victims is, "Courts can't help you; GROW UP!"


Posted by:

gloria
31 Jul 2013

i cant believe that women r that stupid...it would b a red flag too me if they ask for money anyway...I just saw this woman on dr.phil that did just this...she was taken and r women that desperate for love...that's very sad..i get those phishing in my junk folder,sometimes in my inbox,i delete...david,u r so right..


Posted by:

jimmy
12 Sep 2014

Sometimes this happens to me on socialmedia, it's good to always doublethink before you send them your money, etc. thanks for the post.


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