(ModernSurvival.org) – There seems to be no low criminals won’t sink to when looking to scam a vulnerable person out of their hard-earned money. While most scammers simply take their victim’s money and run, making the devastation even worse by leaving the duped individual with a broken heart as well as an empty wallet seems to be a growing trend.
According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), roughly 70 thousand people fell victim to romance scams, frequently called catfishing, in 2022. These scams cost victims a whopping $1.3 billion in losses. So what exactly is a catfishing scam, and how can you avoid falling victim to one?
What is a Catfishing Scam?
Catfishing is an online scam in which a criminal creates a false identity to entice and then exploit or defraud a victim. This includes using “bait,” such as fake images of attractive individuals taken from the internet to draw attention. Once the phony persona is set up, the fraudster will seek out a victim through social media or online dating sites and invest weeks or even months building a fake relationship with their target.
To push home the idea that the fraudster is anything but, they will shower compliments on their mark, send love poems, and even go so far as to send gifts. Once the hook is set, the criminal will use the information they’ve gathered for nefarious purposes.
How to Avoid Becoming a Catfishing Victim
Unfortunately, it can be hard to spot a catfishing scam artist. They can be incredibly convincing and seemingly sincere. There are some dead giveaways that indicate you may be dealing with a potential catfish scheme. Here are several to watch out for:
- Communication is exclusively online
- The catfisher won’t speak over the phone or participate in video calls
- They don’t have many friends on social media
- Photos of the scammer are all professional grade
- They live overseas or far away, making it nearly impossible to meet in person
- The catfisher refuses to meet in person or requests you pay for them to travel to you
- They shower you with attention and compliments
- They ask you for money or a loan, often with a clever sob story to be more convincing, such as a sick child, medical expenses, or even to bail someone out of jail
- The scammer requests ‘racy’ photographs, which they can use for blackmail
- They request sensitive information about you, which could potentially be used to steal your identity
- The stories they spin seem suspicious, or they refuse to elaborate on details of their life
- Something just feels off
There are some tools available to get to the truth if you suspect you may be the target of a catfishing scam. Since these fraudsters tend to use fake photographs, a reverse image search can quickly determine if the person is real. Sites such as Social Catfish can also be enlisted to do a background check on the individual.
Catfishing between adults isn’t technically illegal between adults unless the crook actually escalates the scam to include committing a crime such as fraud, identity theft, or the unlawful use of copyrighted or trademarked material. Should the worst-case scenario arise and you or someone you know become the victim of a catfishing scam, contact the FTC at ReportFraud.ftc.gov.
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