I Got Catfished – What Do I Do Now?

Define catfishing and why it happens

someone looking confused and betrayed after being catfished.

Catfishing refers to the creation of a fictitious online persona or fake identity, typically on social networking platforms, with malicious intent (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catfishing). Catfishing involves using someone else’s photos, biographical information, and other personal details to create a fabricated identity. The term catfish was first used in the 2010 documentary film Catfish, which followed a man who discovered the woman he fell in love with online was not who she claimed to be.

There are various motivations behind catfishing. Often, catfishing stems from loneliness or a desire for attention and affection from others. Some catfish fabricate an idealized version of themselves to live out fantasies or become someone more attractive and interesting. Other reasons include financial scams, stalking/harassment, or concealing one’s true identity. Catfishing allows perpetrators to fulfill unmet needs through their fictitious personas in ways they feel unable to in real life.

Recognize the signs you may be getting catfished

One major red flag for catfishing is when the person is reluctant to video chat or meet in person. As Teen Vogue notes, catfishers will typically make excuses for why they can’t hop on a video call or meet up despite talking for a long time online (source). This allows them to hide their real identity and maintain the facade. If someone keeps coming up with reasons why they can’t video chat or meet you, it’s wise to be suspicious.

Their social media presence may also seem suspicious or inconsistent if you’re being catfished. As Avast points out, having little or no history on social platforms or using a recently created profile can signal catfishing (source). Look out for social media accounts with few posts, followers, or engagement. Profiles using fake-looking photos or information inconsistent with what they’ve told you are other red flags.

Lastly, WebMD notes that constant excuses for why they can’t meet in person is a common catfishing tactic (source). Whether it’s car troubles, a sudden work emergency, or a sick relative, be wary if they keep having reasons not to get together despite talking for months. Take note if planning to meet in real life always seems to hit a roadblock.

Confirm you are being catfished

If you suspect the person you are talking to online may be catfishing you, there are steps you can take to confirm if you are being catfished:

Do a reverse image search on their photos. Services like Google Images allow you to upload a photo or enter the image URL and search the web to see if the photo appears elsewhere online. If the photo shows up attached to other names or profiles, it’s a red flag for catfishing.

someone doing a reverse image search to catch a catfish.

Look up their name, phone number, email or other details to cross-reference what they’ve told you. Search online and on social media to see if the details they’ve provided are consistent. For example, search their phone number in a people search directory to see if it’s associated with someone else.

Ask them questions only someone with their background would know to see if their story holds up. For example, ask about details of where they went to high school or college.

Tools like BeenVerified allow you to perform background checks and further investigate someone’s digital footprint if you remain unsure after initial searches.

If you find definitive evidence the person is not who they claim to be, then it confirms you are likely being catfished and should proceed to confront them or cut off contact.

Confront the Catfisher

The most direct way to confirm if you are being catfished is to ask them directly. Have an honest conversation and explain the specific things that are making you suspicious, like inconsistencies in their story or photos, avoiding meeting in person, or refusing video chats. Give them a chance to come clean and admit if they have been lying about who they are. As Wikihow suggests, “Tell the person that you know something is wrong, and you need them to be honest with you about their identity.”https://www.wikihow.com/End-a-Catfish-Relationship Open and calm communication may inspire a catfisher to reveal the truth.

It’s also important to explain how their catfishing is negatively impacting you. For example, “I want to get to know the real you, but I feel manipulated and lied to, which hurts me and makes it hard to build trust in our relationship.” Make it clear this behavior is unacceptable to you. If they deny catfishing despite clear evidence, it may be time to end contact.

Cut off contact if confirmed catfishing

If you determine that the person you are communicating with has been catfishing you, the most important thing you can do is immediately cut off all contact with them. This includes blocking them on all social media platforms, messaging apps, and their phone number. Do not respond to any further attempts by them to communicate with you.

Catfishers may try to manipulate you into continuing the relationship, but stay strong and remember that this person has already lied to you. Any further engagement only enables their deceptive behavior.

In addition, if the catfisher has asked you for money or gifts, under no circumstances should you provide them with anything further. Unfortunately, financial scams are common with catfishing. You need to protect yourself both emotionally and financially by completely cutting ties.

While ending contact may be difficult if you have developed feelings for this person, understand that they were not who they claimed to be. Mourn the loss of the imagined relationship, but focus on moving forward. Surround yourself with trusted friends and loved ones who can support you through this challenging situation.

Report the catfisher

someone reporting a catfish to authorities.

If you confirm you are being catfished, it’s important to report the catfisher to protect yourself and others. Here are some steps you can take:

File reports on dating sites or social media platforms used. Most major platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Tinder allow you to report fake accounts or scams. Provide details on how you were catfished with any evidence you have.

Contact authorities if you sent money or risks are involved. If the catfisher defrauded you financially or made threats, contact the police to file a report. The FBI and FTC also investigate romance scams. Having a record can help in recovering losses or pressing charges (Source).

Consider small claims court for financial losses. If you sent substantial money to a catfisher, you may be able to take them to small claims court depending on your location and amount lost. Consult a lawyer to understand your options.

Freeze your credit if personal information was compromised. Identity theft is common with romance scams. Place a credit freeze to prevent new lines of credit being opened in your name (Source).

Reflect on vulnerability factors

It’s important to reflect on any vulnerability factors that may have made you more susceptible to being catfished. According to one source, “Romantics (aka people who tend to idealize romantic relationships and romance in general) and people high in neuroticism may be more likely to overlook red flags in order to nurture a fairy-tale love story.” [1]

Consider if loneliness or self-esteem issues caused you to overlook red flags in pursuit of an online connection. Be honest with yourself about any tendency to idealize relationships or rationalize questionable behavior from a romantic interest. Identifying these vulnerability factors can help you avoid falling for catfishing tactics in the future.

Also reflect on any rationalizations you made for suspicious behaviors, along with red flags you may have missed or ignored. Common warning signs of catfishing include refusing to video chat, making excuses to avoid meeting in person, using fake photos, and inconsistencies in their story. Being aware of these red flags can prevent you from being reeled in by a catfish again.

Practice online safety going forward

Being catfished can make you wary of online dating and interactions. However, you can take steps to avoid being catfished again. Some tips include:

Reverse image search matches on dating sites. Using Google Images or another reverse image search, you can see if someone’s profile photo is used elsewhere online. Multiple matches suggest the photo is not of the actual person. According to PCMag, doing a reverse image search is one of the best ways to detect fake profiles.

Look for consistent social media activity. Review a match’s various social media accounts to see if their posts and photos align over time. Sparse or inconsistent activity could be a red flag. Check that details match across platforms.

Use video chats before meeting. Speak to a potential date over video chat to verify who they are. Catfishers often avoid live video. Suggest a video call before agreeing to meet in person. Watch for excuses why they cannot video chat.

While being cautious, keep an open mind when interacting online. With vigilance and smart practices, you can feel more secure about online dating and connections.

Seek support if needed

someone turning to friends for support after being catfished.

Being a victim of catfishing can be deeply upsetting and unsettling. It’s important not to keep the experience bottled up inside. Consider talking to trusted friends or family members about what happened. Discussing it can help make sense of the situation and get different perspectives. Having the support of loved ones can aid the healing process.

If you sent money, gifts, or personal information, or are experiencing intense shame, anger, or depression after being catfished, seeking professional counseling may be beneficial. A therapist can help you work through your emotions and make a plan to regain your sense of security. According to research from BulliesOut, catfishing experiences can potentially lead to anxiety, depression, PTSD, and financial troubles. Therefore, don’t hesitate to get help if you are struggling with the aftermath.

With time, counseling, and self-care, you can move forward. But don’t be afraid to ask for support when dealing with catfishing trauma.

Focus on real-life relationships

After being catfished, it’s understandable to feel hesitant about pursuing new relationships. However, try not to let one bad experience hold you back indefinitely. Focus on nurturing real-life connections with people you actually know.

Try meeting people through your existing social circles, like friends, family, coworkers, or activity groups. Get involved in your community and engage in hobbies that introduce you to like-minded people. Take things slowly when meeting someone new, get to know them organically, and look for sincerity in their words and actions.

Additionally, work on personal growth and self-confidence before jumping back into dating. Reflect on any lingering insecurities or vulnerabilities that may have made you susceptible to catfishing in the first place. As you build self-love and work on overcoming doubts, you’ll feel more equipped to foster healthy relationships.[1]

Stay patient with yourself throughout this process. Don’t feel rushed to start dating again until you genuinely feel ready. Focus on bringing more real connections into your life day-by-day. With time, the right people and opportunities will come your way.

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