Catfishing is when someone pretends to be another person rather than using social media to create a false persona or identity. For example, a person will take information and images from another person to create a new identity; they can even take more personal information such as a person's birthday, profession, location, likes and dislikes, and other information. The person who has created this new identity is called a 'catfisher' and uses it to trick people into believing they are real.
Catfishers commonly use fake profile pictures on their social media. In addition, they will use multiple photos from the same accounts to continue their phony persona and continue to trick whoever they are speaking to.
So what do you do if you or someone you know thinks you're being catfished?
When it seems too good to be true, it usually is. Trust your instincts. If you receive a message or friend request from someone entirely out of the blue and you don't know them, be very aware. Regularly match up what they're saying and if you notice inconsistencies, be suspicious.
If they seem to know a lot about you or share many of the same interests, this can be a warning sign. Sometimes when a lot of research is done about you online, it can be for the purpose to catfish you. Ensure you are always aware of your privacy settings and regularly update those settings to ensure you're only displaying information you're comfortable with.
Do an online check on them. You can perform a Google reverse image search (Find out about that here). If any images are linked to many people, that's a strong sign of a catfish. Check out their other social media platforms. Signs of catfishing include no tagged photos from other people, low friend count or low post count.
Report any accounts or images you think may be fake and used to catfish people. These types of online interactivity can be reported on social media platforms.
Block any accounts which you think may be fake or make you uncomfortable. Also, be wary of new accounts which appear as these may be the same person attempting to contact you again through a new account.
Let close friends and family know about the situation; catfishers can try to access you or your information through close contacts.
If what you've read has caused some concerns or worries and you'd like some support, you can call Lifeline on 13 14 11 at any time. They are available 24/7. Headspace also provides counselling and support in many forms for individuals up to the age of 25. If you're in immediate risk or someone you know is, call 000 to speak to emergency services.
eSafety Commissioner (2020). Catfishing. https://www.esafety.gov.au/young-people/catfishing
Fortinet (2021). Catfishing. https://www.fortinet.com/resources/cyberglossary/catfishing
TechFunnel. (2020). The Best Way to Protect against Cybercriminals. https://www.techfunnel.com/information-technology/prevent-data-against-cybercriminals/