How Do You Know If You Caught A Catfish?

What is a catfish?

In fishing terminology, a “catfish” refers to a type of bottom-feeding fish characterized by whisker-like barbels around their mouths. They are known for being able to thrive in many water conditions. The term was adopted online to refer to someone who creates a fake persona or identity to trick or manipulate others on social media or dating sites.

Catfishing involves using someone else’s photos and biographical information to pass as that person online. The catfish fabricates life experiences, feelings, and hardships to form relationships and gain trust under this fake identity. Their motives may include seeking attention, financial gain, revenge, or romance. The term rose in popularity in the 2010s after being featured in an MTV documentary about online deception.

According to Proofpoint (, catfishing is a form of social engineering in which attackers use fictitious online identities for deception, fraud, or exploitation. Catfish fabricate entire personas using stolen information or completely invented biographies. They target victims on social media sites, dating sites, chat rooms and other online communities to manipulate them for their own purposes.

Warning signs you may be getting catfished

One of the biggest red flags when dating online is if the person is unwilling to video chat or meet in person. According to, “The most common sign of a potential catfish is that the person always has an excuse ready for why they can’t participate in a live video chat with you.”1 If they claim their camera is broken or keep postponing a video date, it’s likely something fishy is going on.

Catfishers may also be inconsistent with details they share or seem evasive when asked follow-up questions. As eHarmony notes, their stories “may start to change over time or have odd gaps.”2 Pay attention if small details about their job, family, location don’t add up. A catfish will struggle keeping their lies straight.

Likewise, someone who is very affectionate online but refuses to meet in person is a huge red flag. Review42 points out this is because “they know you’ll immediately be able to tell they aren’t who they claim to be.”3 A real romantic interest would be excited to meet you face-to-face.

Performing a reverse image search

One of the quickest ways to determine if a profile photo has been stolen is to do a reverse image search. This allows you to take an image and find out where else online it appears. The most popular reverse image search is Google’s, which has both desktop and mobile options.

To do a reverse image search on Google desktop, go to and either drag and drop the photo into the search bar or click the camera icon to upload it. Google will then show you any matching images across the web. You can also right click on any image in Chrome and select “Search Google for image” to reverse search it.

On mobile, you can use the Google Images app or Google Lens built into the Google app. Simply snap or upload a photo and Google will scan the web to identify matches. Other reverse image options on mobile include Yandex, Bing, and TinEye.

If you find the profile photo anywhere else online, like a stock image site, social media for a different person, or an online forum, it’s likely fake. Reverse image search provides a quick way to verify if a profile photo is stolen.

Researching personal details

One of the best ways to uncover a catfish is by researching the personal details they have provided to you. For example, if they claim to have attended a certain high school or college, search online records to see if their name appears. You can also try looking up any employers they’ve mentioned to see if they are legitimate.

Search public records databases for information tied to their name, phone number, email or social media accounts. See if the details add up with what they’ve told you about their background. Look for any inconsistencies or red flags that indicate they may be lying about who they are. Particularly be wary if they get defensive or upset when you try to verify facts about their life.

You can even try reverse image searching any photos they’ve sent you to see if they are actually of someone else. A catfish may steal images from random people online to create a fake persona. Any personal details that cannot be corroborated through objective research should raise suspicions that you are being duped.

Asking probing questions

A great way to detect potential catfishing is to ask detailed questions about the person’s life and relationships, and look for inconsistencies or vagueness in their answers. Some good probing questions to ask include:

“What was the name of your high school and what year did you graduate?” Look for sketchy or vague answers here. Most people easily remember basic biographical details like this.

“Tell me about your family – do you have any siblings? What are their names and ages?” See if their story lines up or if they stumble on these types of simple personal questions.

“What’s your favorite childhood memory with your parents or siblings?” Listen for very generic or impersonal responses that lack meaningful details.

“What town did you grow up in? Can you tell me about it?” See if they can describe specifics about the area and their experiences there.

“What was your first job?” People usually have no trouble recalling their first foray into the working world. Sketchy answers indicate they may be fabricating details.

The key is to ask questions that require someone to draw on personal memories and relationships. Inconsistencies, lack of specifics, or refusal to answer basic questions can be red flags for potential deception. Trust your instincts if their stories just don’t add up.

Trusting your instincts

One of the most important things when online dating is to listen to your gut instincts. If something feels off or you get bad vibes from someone, don’t ignore those feelings. According to Psychology Today, “Listen to your gut. Online dating behavior that appears odd or threatening warrants paying attention to your internal warnings.”

When conversing with someone new online, be aware of any red flags or inconsistencies in their story. If your gut is telling you something is wrong, listen to it and be cautious moving forward. Don’t feel pressured to ignore warning signs just because you want the match to work out. Trust your instincts – if you have an uneasy feeling, there’s usually a reason.

It’s better to politely cut off contact rather than ignore nagging doubts. According to experts, one of the keys to safe online dating is following your intuition. Don’t make excuses for questionable behavior or suspicious details. Pay attention to any gut feelings that something is off, and act accordingly to protect yourself.

Confronting a Suspected Catfish

If you suspect you are being catfished, the best approach is to bring up your concerns gently and directly to the person. Start by telling them you value their friendship and want to have an open and honest conversation. Share the specific things that don’t add up or seem suspicious, such as inconsistencies in their photos, background, or stories. Cite your sources if you’ve done some digging, but avoid sounding accusatory. The goal is to give them a chance to explain themselves.

Watch their reaction and response closely. An innocent person who has nothing to hide will likely be surprised and want to clear up any misunderstandings. However, a catfish will probably get defensive or upset that you’ve caught them in a lie. They may try to turn the conversation around on you or refuse to provide explanations or proof of their identity. If you feel they aren’t addressing your valid concerns, it’s best to cut off contact, as continuing the friendship can enable their unhealthy behavior.

According to experts, the best way to confront a suspected catfish is with empathy, honesty, and firmness about your boundaries (Source). Make it clear you aren’t judging them, but you cannot move forward in the friendship without complete truthfulness. Their reaction will likely confirm if your suspicions were correct.

Cutting off contact

If you confirm that someone is catfishing you, the best course of action is to immediately stop all communication with them. This means blocking them on all platforms where you’ve been interacting – social media, messaging apps, phone/text, and email.

Don’t try to get an explanation or reason from them, as catfishers will often continue the deception or manipulate you. Simply cut off contact by blocking the person on everything. Don’t reply to any attempts by them to reach out through new accounts or numbers.

It can be emotionally difficult to accept that someone you thought you knew and trusted has been lying to you. But continuing communication enables the catfisher and prolongs the pain. Make a clean break by cutting contact so you can begin to heal and move on.

In rare cases, a catfisher may escalate to stalking behavior if blocked. Be alert for signs of this, like unknown numbers contacting you or accounts trying to follow you. Immediately report any concerning activity to the police.

Reporting catfishing

If you believe you have been catfished, you can report the fake account to the dating site or social media platform where you encountered it. Most major sites like Facebook, Instagram and Tinder have reporting mechanisms to flag suspicious accounts for review. When submitting a report, provide as many details as possible about why you think the account is fake, like using reverse image searches to identify stolen photos or inconsistencies in details shared.

In more extreme cases of catfishing – like if money was stolen from you or threats were made – you may be able to file a report with your local police department. They likely won’t be able to take action against someone anonymously catfishing online, but it could help establish a paper trail in case things escalate further. Keep records of any conversations or transactions you had with the catfish account in case law enforcement needs them. While most catfishing situations probably don’t rise to the level of criminal prosecution, reporting to police provides an official avenue if you suffered significant harm.

According to one Quora user, here is how to report a catfish account on some popular social media platforms:

And on Reddit, users discuss strategies for identifying and reporting catfishing accounts:

Protecting yourself going forward

Here are some tips for spotting and avoiding catfish attempts in the future:

Conduct reverse image searches on profile pictures to check if they are stolen from somewhere else online ( This can reveal if you are being catfished with fake photos.

Ask the person lots of questions about themselves and their life. Catfish tend to avoid providing details or give inconsistent information when pressed for specifics.

Insist on video chatting before meeting someone in person. Many catfish will resist or make excuses to avoid a live video call.

Check if the person has active social media accounts you can verify belong to a real person. Catfish often lack much of an online footprint or friends.

Be wary of anyone who seems “too perfect” or quickly professes strong feelings. Catfish try to appeal to your ideal partner fantasy.

Go slowly when getting to know someone online. Rushed intimacy or proposals can be manipulation tactics.

Listen to your instincts. If something feels “off” about an online match, don’t ignore the red flags.

Cut off contact at the first sign of suspicious behavior. Don’t get lured into confronting the catfish.

Learn from the experience and be more cautious next time. Reflect on what made you vulnerable to being catfished.

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