Are You a Victim of CatPhishing?
'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!
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.
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...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 26 Jul 2013
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Are You a Victim of CatPhishing? (Posted: 26 Jul 2013)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved