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...

Ask Your Computer or Internet Question

  (Enter your question in the box above.)

It's Guaranteed to Make You Smarter...

AskBob Updates: Boost your Internet IQ & solve computer problems.
Get your FREE Subscription!


Check out other articles in this category:

Link to this article from your site or blog. Just copy and paste from this box:

This article was posted by on 26 Jul 2013

For Fun: Buy Bob a Snickers.

Prev Article:
Power Up Your Gmail!

The Top Twenty
Next Article:
Is Google Nexus 7 the Best Tablet?

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

Posted by:

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:

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:

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 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:

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:

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:

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:

31 Jul 2013

i cant believe that women r that 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:

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.

Posted by:

Brigitte Knowles
15 Mar 2015

Please learn from my mistake. I unknowingly married a catphisher and annulled the marriage after 17 days. I found the emails, loan documents, met the victims, lost a lot of money myself but I came out alive. You can lose your identity, your credit rating, your mental and emotional health, your family, your will to live and your life! Men who catfish are looking for lonely, sad, needy women with money or good credit. If you are not strong and smart, they will make you think you are just to get your money. They will pretend to love you. Be smart or stay off dating websites! Catphishing is a nightmare that you cannot wake up from.

Posted by:

Paul V
15 Jun 2015

If you are a victim, there are laws that cover this, especially if there's money involved. Fraud and harassment laws come into play although they are hard to prove. Civil action can also be taken but make sure you have authenticated legal evidence to make your case.

For more information regarding legal issues visit catphishing update.

Posted by:

Jasmine Orenstein
19 Jun 2015

When I got lonely for a romantic person in my life, I went looking locally for someone who had the same interests as I do, and it was well worth it, even though it took a lot of patience and a lot of looking to find that Right Person. My advice is: if you are lonely look for another lonely person you can touch see, hear and feel, NOT an unknown cyber-entity!

Posted by:

16 Jan 2016

Is there a sight where you can post a photo of someone who you don't trust?

Posted by:

29 Oct 2019

Yes ,it happened to me got cat phished for thousands of dollars, it was the I love you thing. From Russia ,Anna Pirozhkova, is her name,Pictures and everything, even a little dance ,number to seal the deal, A real con artist, when she got the last moneys from me she deletes her profile, so I cant communicate any more. don't get caught up with her,, I can send pics of her if you like

Post your Comments, Questions or Suggestions

*     *     (* = Required field)

    (Your email address will not be published)
(you may use HTML tags for style)

YES... spelling, punctuation, grammar and proper use of UPPER/lower case are important! Comments of a political nature are discouraged. Please limit your remarks to 3-4 paragraphs. If you want to see your comment posted, pay attention to these items.

All comments are reviewed, and may be edited or removed at the discretion of the moderator.

NOTE: Please, post comments on this article ONLY.
If you want to ask a question click here.

Free Tech Support -- Ask Bob Rankin
Subscribe to AskBobRankin Updates: Free Newsletter

Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved
Privacy Policy     RSS/XML

Article information: AskBobRankin -- Are You a Victim of CatPhishing? (Posted: 26 Jul 2013)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved