Catfishing, a colloquial cyber term for making a connection with someone online under a false identity, has become a sensationalized phenomenon in the media.

Catfishing is not really a new phenomenon, though the term is not that old. Pre-Internet, letter writing was a way to fool people into believing in a false identity and sending money. In a digital age, catfishers can create much more elaborate personas and extort large sums of money from victims.

Catfishing is portrayed as a revenge or embarrassment tactic – but in actuality, it is usually used to get money or information in order to gain access to your accounts. Online dating and virtual friendships are becoming more common. Connections are no longer limited by physical distance and people are making friends all over the world. The same rules "too good to be true" apply just as much, if not more, online than in person. The good news is advanced technology can also help prevent catfishing attempts. Skype, Facetime, even Facebook chat allows you to talk face-to-face with someone and really "meet" them.

Learn how to stay safe and recognize catfishing by reviewing these security tips:
  • Online dating websites are especially fraught with catfishing attempts. If in doubt of someone's identity, do not hesitate to anonymously report them.
  • Asking for money or personal information should trigger red flags. Never give away your personal information.
  • Do not be afraid to "virtually stalk" someone you have connected with online. Signs of a fake profile are no candid pictures or pictures with other; exceptionally low friend counts; no social media accounts, or alternatively multiple profiles on social media.
  • Use the same caution meeting a stranger online as you would if a stranger approached you in person.
  • Make sure you understand the privacy policies of social media sites and check to see what information you are making public
  • Track your information (and see who may be sharing it) with programs such as Google alerts.
  • You can check if someone is using a genuine photo or a stock picture by reverse image searching their profile picture.
  • Identical wording on several posts or profiles across accounts

Have questions? We're here to help!

If you have questions about cybersecurity, or if you want to learn more about how to stay safe online, contact the Information Security Office (ISO) at: