It wasn’t too long ago that a catfish only had one definition – a whiskered, bottom-dwelling beauty of a fish found in most rivers and lakes. However, it was after MTV aired their show based on the award-winning documentary Catfish that it suddenly picked up another meaning – a person who hides their identity online in order to deceive another. While not all catfish online are devious, most often they are just lonely people, but sometimes it can be a good method for con artists to milk money or gifts from other lonely people.
Whether you have given money or gifts to someone online or you just need to know, the easiest way to catch a catfish is to hire a private investigator. They have a number of tools at their disposal to help you find the real identity of the person. However, there are a few preliminary means to help you discover if a person is shy or if they are just deceiving you.
Check their Social Media Profile
A legitimate person in this day and age has probably had their profile for a number of years by this point. They will also have a small collection of friends. Typically the majority of these will be either from the area they live in now or from their hometown. Finally, they will have pictures that are original and found nowhere else on the internet except their other social media sites. The popular method of doing this is a reverse image search where you copy the picture then paste it into Google’s image search.
Of course, a good and suspicious catfish will have an excuse for all of this. They may then counter with defensiveness, blaming you for doing your due diligence. It is important to remember that defensiveness is the biggest giveaway of a catfish.
Get a Verification Photo
Often if someone is deceiving you about who they are, they won’t send you recent photos. This is a huge giveaway. If you ask for a verification photo, which will be one taken in the moment with them making a silly face or holding up a sign, then they likely aren’t who they are claiming to be if they decline.
Meet Up in Person (or Video)
A truly good catfish will have some Photoshop proficiency. This means they can edit a verification photo to meet their needs. Usually altered photos can be easy to spot if you look at the shadows and lighting, but not always. If you suspect a photo has been altered, the only way to know for sure is to meet up in person or in video. Of course, a popular excuse to decline video chat is that they don’t have a camera, but even terrible smart phones these days have cameras on them.
Yet, meeting in person has some risks, which is why you should always bring another person just in case something happens and meet in a public place. If you get to the point where you want to meet in person and they decline, it might be worth hiring a private investigator in order to try to find out their real identity.