The 2010 documentary Catfish featured a young man who carried on a long-term relationship with a married woman who was significantly older than him but had pretended to be otherwise through digital communications and fake profiles. Catfishing became a popular idea in the zeitgeist, but it has been reduced to a much simpler definition: a person who creates a fake online persona and uses that profile to pursue someone else falsely, often making them believe they are in a relationship.
There are some very common situations where someone is likely catfishing. Social media profiles that lack pictures, only have a few friends, or make posts that are indicative of a false account collecting information should cause you to stop and consider if that profile is being used to catfish. If you’re communicating with someone who is lacking current pictures or is unwilling to provide any recent information (or jump on a webcam to prove they are real), consider this an obvious red flag. In the documentary, Catfish, it was common practice for someone who is trying to catfish to reach out during times of tragedy OR use a tragedy as a means to not provide recent, verifiable information.
Wally had been chatting with Sarah online for a few months. He had started to talk to his friends and family about her and they were curious about meeting her. Wally showed them the pictures she had shared with him. She was a stunning woman who appeared as if she been photographed professionally. Wally’s brother thought one of the pictures looked familiar and did a reverse Google image search. It turned out to be a stock photo from a modeling website. Devastated, Wally confronted Sarah online, asking her about what his brother had said. She got angry with him and ghosted. It was in that moment, Wally realized that he had been a victim of catfishing.