What Is Catfishing?
Urban dictionary defines cat fishing as the following:
The phenomenon of internet predators that fabricate online identities and entire social circles to trick people into emotional/romantic relationships (over a long period of time).
Possible motivations: revenge, loneliness, curiosity, boredom
There is an online trend for individuals to fake their profile for various reasons. Several of them aren’t too nefarious. Sometimes out of boredom or curiosity someone will put together a particularly attractive or funny profile to illicit specific responses for their amusement. This is relatively harmless fun but there are other purposes that it is being used for that we should fight back against.
Why is it bad?
Catfishing can be used to lure or harass specific individuals. In order to lure someone that doesn’t want to see them or to aggravate that individual catfishing can be used to trick people into vulnerable situations. They can develop deep relationships with their victims which then divulge revealing information about themselves to someone they thought they could confide in. The culmination of some of these relationships is a long term scam for large sums of money. After months and months of grooming a victim and convincing them that the love of their life is just a $3000 plane ticket away the victim is left with both an empty bank account and empty heart. Unfortunately this type of scam is quite common. In Australia alone, the police estimate that Australians send roughly $8 million to scammers via the internet every single month. If you are the victim of this type of catfishing and find yourself on the receiving end of identity theft or in need of credit repair (to remove things like enhanced recovery company collection accounts) you can hope to minimize the damage as much as possible.
Is it bad that people want to escape?
It seems that one of the biggest motivations for catfishing is wanting to escape their own reality. People that take up the hobby find that their own reality is not worth being in 24/7, so they create another one that they feel is better. A reality in which they can be happy. This short lived high never actually makes anyone happy though and continues to drive the wrong point home, that their life is bad and the fake life they live online is good. The constant reinforcement is at best unhealthy.
Solutions to this problem are not easy to come by. Some sites and web apps try to verify the information through collection of documents. Collecting personally identifiable documents and financial records to verify each individual using the application seems like an easy solution. This might provide a small amount of relief but can also open up other problems. For starters, once we are dedicated to sending sensitive information to a 3rd party company/application we are opening up ourselves to the risk of identity theft. The best advice is to stay diligent, but this doesn’t appear to be a problem that is going to go away any time soon.