Cybersecurity is a complex and ever-evolving subject. Just when you feel you may have understood a majority of common threats looming on the internet, something new comes up. Catfishing, for instance, may be a new term for many and you’re perhaps one of that regular internet and social media users who aren’t too familiar with catfishing and what exact damage catfish can cause.
In this blog, we get into the details of catfishing, the motives of online catfish, and most importantly, how you can protect yourself from them.
Catfishing involves a person using information and images to create a false identity for themselves on the internet.
A catfish can sometimes steal another person’s full identity, including date of birth, photos, and geographical location, and pretend it’s their own. They then use the fake identity to trick others into doing business online or associating with them.
Catfishing is extremely common amongst dating app users as well. A catfish may pose as someone they’re not and trap others into romance scams.
It’s important to note that not all catfish are cybersecurity threats. Many people may catfish due to insecurities regarding who they are, mental instability, feelings of revenge, desire to experiment with sexual preferences, and more. While some catfish may not be malicious, many are fraudsters and perpetrators of cybersecurity scams against their targets.
How exactly do catfish scams work? Catfish trap unsuspecting targets to believe in their false identity and can extract vital, sensitive information in the process. Many can straight off ask for money and others may get precious credentials out of you. They may then use this sensitive information for monetary gains and in some extreme cases to unleash further sophisticated cyber-attacks or ransomware attacks against a business or organization you may be associated with.
While catfish are definitely out there in hoards and their intentions can range from impish to malicious, the only way to really deal with them is to know how to protect yourself from them. Below are ways to protect yourself and your personal information from potential catfish.
1. Do a background check
You can conduct a name search or an online background check with the help of services like Instant Checkmate. This can help reveal an individual’s social media profiles, news articles they could be mentioned in, or other digital content containing their name. After the initial search, you can confirm further personal details like their workplace, where they come from, their friends, etc. to make sure that who they claim to be matched with what the internet says about them.
2. Know the signs of being catfished
If the catfish’s description is thorough and detailed, it may be difficult to tell when you’re being catfished. Since the catfish’s profile is only created to target specific persons, they may not have a lot of followers or friends. A catfish may never want to voice or video call may avoid in-person meet-ups, and may even ask for money. These are all signs that you are being catfished and that you should put up your guard.
3. Never share your personal information
Oversharing personal information with strangers can be dangerous. If someone you’ve just met online begins asking for your personal data such as an address, additional contact information, or account details, or tries to push you to tell them things regarding your life or your work, they could be catfishing you.
If they ask you for a password on the pretext of an emergency, that’s a really major warning sign that something is up. Asking for personal data is another big red flag because that behavior isn’t normal, and it should raise cause for alarm.
4. Be suspicious of those you don’t know
Be careful when you receive friend requests, correspondence, or message requests from people you aren’t familiar with. Treat online conversations the same as real-life ones. While it’s okay to interact with new people and make more friends, you should be cautious and look out for catfishing signs discussed above.
5. Ask questions that require specific knowledge
If you suspect that someone is catfishing, ask them questions that only people with their reported background would know. You can ask about malls and restaurants from where they claim to come from or something particular about what they do. If they’re hesitant or try to avoid your questions, be wary of them.
6. Use reverse image search to identify fake profile photos
Social media is full of fake images and profiles. If you’re suspicious of the person you’re chatting with online, consider using a reverse image search to identify fake images. This tool also allows you to confirm a photo’s authenticity by looking at similar images and the original version of the photo.