a blog from CenturyLink

How to spot a catfish scam

by | Jan 27, 2023


Nearly half of single Americans on dating apps have lied on their dating profile. Maybe you’ve added a few inches to your height or used a picture from your prime, 10 years ago. These little white lies may feel relatively harmless. However, there are scammers on dating apps who lie about a lot more than their current hairstyle. Whether you’re swiping through profiles to find the love of your life or looking for something more casual, watch out for catfish scams.

Senior man falling for a catfish scam

What is catfishing?

You’ve probably heard of the term catfishing before, but what exactly is it? Catfishing is when a scam artist pretends to be someone else in order to gain your trust. Sometimes they will create a fictional persona with stock photos and a fake name. They can also steal another person’s identity, using their name, photos, and personal information to trick you into thinking that person is talking to you.

Dating apps aren’t the only places where you can be catfished. Scammers set up fake accounts on other forms of social media as well. Learn more about how to stay safe on social media.

You might encounter catfishing on:

  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • Snapchat
  • Tinder
  • Bumble
  • Hinge

What are the dangers of catfishing?

You might be wondering what the dangers of catfishing scams are. The truth is, catfishing can have devastating consequences. Imagine falling in love or making an amazing new friend—only to find out they never existed, and you were chatting with a stranger the entire time. This is why catfishing scams are so devastating: You don’t typically fall for your scammer.

Of course, catfishing also has the classic risks of other scams. Your catfisher might ask you for money. Usually, they will use an excuse such as losing their job or having an emergency in order to gain your sympathy. And because you feel such a strong connection to them, you’re likely to agree. They may also try to steal money or even your identity. Now you understand why it’s so important to never give away your personal information, even to people you trust.

Person being lovebombed in a catfish scam

How to spot a catfish scam

Catfishers are great at what they do. They prey on your emotions to gain your trust, and eventually, in some cases, to gain your money. Make sure you’re aware of scam tactics and know how to spot a catfish scam before it’s too late. Learn what to do if you’ve been scammed online.

Here are some signs that you’re being catfished:

They refuse to video chat or meet in person

If your potential love interest refuses to video chat with you, they just might be a catfish. It’s a good idea to verify someone’s identity before you start getting too close. This can come in many forms, such as a verified profile, video chatting, or meeting in person. If the time comes for a first date and they’re beating around the bush, that’s a red flag. Scammers will avoid showing their faces, as that will give them away.

Person being lovebombed in a catfish scam

Their story is inconsistent

A catfish will also have an inconsistent life story. When you ask them questions, their answers are intentionally vague. Catfishes will almost never reveal details that you can prove, such as their real location or place of work. Even though some people don’t use social media, your catfish will be untraceable online.

The relationship escalates quickly

You may have heard of the term “love bombing.” It basically refers to being showered with over-the-top affection early in a relationship. Many scammers use this tactic to get you to fall for them. They might lavish you with compliments, send you money or presents, or message you nonstop throughout the day.

They use fake or stolen images

Of course, unrealistic photos are a big red flag. Most people on dating apps won’t have professional photos or headshots. If someone looks suspiciously perfect in their photos or has very few photos, they might be a catfish. You can reverse image search their photos as a precaution. This may show if they’ve been stolen from someone else’s profile.

Man looking at a catfish scam on dating app

Their account looks fishy

Many catfishes create new profiles often in order to catfish other people and cast their net as wide as possible. Keep an eye out for how long their account has been active. On some dating apps, you can request that your match verifies their profile if you suspect they might not be a real person.

They ask you for money

This is usually one of the final signs that someone is catfishing you. Typically, they won’t ask you for money right away. Most scammers are in for the long haul and will only ask you for money once they think they’ve gained your trust or sympathy. In general, it’s a good idea to never give money to anyone online. In many cases, once you’ve paid out, their account will be deleted, and you’ll never see your money again. Or even worse, they could stick around and give you the same sob stories over and over!

How to avoid being catfished

The best way to avoid a catfish scam is to be aware of the signs and be careful who you share personal information with. The internet can be a wonderful place to connect with others, but it’s a good idea to always be cautious.

Other scams to watch out for

Catfishing isn’t the only scam out there. People with bad intentions have many ways of getting you to send them money or give them your personal information. Watch out for wrong number text scams and phishing scams. If you’re a senior, learn how to avoid online scams and stay safe online.

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<a href="https://discover.centurylink.com/author/emilyr" target="_self">Emily Richey</a>

Emily Richey


Emily Richey is the Content Manager for the CenturyLink and Quantum Fiber blogs. A recent graduate of Pace University NYC, she's an avid reader and writer. She spends most of her free time in bookstores and cafes, seeking the perfect cup of coffee.