Human beings like to interact. It's in our nature. With the advent of online dating, social media, and instant electronic connections, it's gotten easier to kindle new relationships. Maybe even romance. However, a scam called catfishing now parts millions of Americans with their money, sensitive information, and pride every year. You can protect yourself with a handful of tips and an understanding of how catfishing works.
One of the best and worst parts of online interactions is the anonymity. This privacy allows you to reach out without the worry of rejection, whether you're on a dating site, Facebook, or simply buying something from an individual. They don't know who you really are or where you live. But you also don't know who they really are or where they live.
That 30-something who says they live in Henderson and works as a pharmacist could actually be a lot younger or older — using a false identity or one they've stolen (that includes fake images of themselves). They might even be the opposite sex from their online identity. Catfishing perpetrators often deceive others for fun, to explore their sexuality, or to steal your money.
For example, let's say you're in the market for a used vehicle. You find the perfect one online, and it's listed at an incredibly low price. You contact the seller, who agrees to sell it to you. But they're not in your area (or state). They tell you to wire the money and they'll have it shipped with a money-back guarantee. If you ask to test drive the car, they'll find an excuse to keep you away. And if you send the money, chances are you'll never get the vehicle. Plus, you'll never hear from the seller again. They are catfishing for unsuspecting victims by posing as a fake seller with a fake vehicle.
Criminals Lurk in Murky Waters
Unless you've met in person and can authenticate their identity, don't trust a new online friend. Every year, tens of millions of Americas fall victim to scams that pull at their heart or sense of humanity. Here's how to avoid becoming a victim.
Walk away when they ask for money
If someone requests money for any reason, don't send it. They might profess to need financial help with a medical bill, to care for a sick relative, or to purchase a ticket to come see you, but it's almost always a scam. Especially if they are urgent and insistent you send the money now.
Don't Encourage Bullies
Cyberbullies love catfishing. By attacking others under a fake name and identity, they can remain unknown. The best way to avoid being hooked by a cyberbully is to ignore them.
Don't share pictures
That includes images of your neighborhood, home, or kids. Online programs make it easy to cross-reference and find your address. In addition, do not send compromising photos (wink-wink, nudge-nudge). There are criminals who will trick you into sending less-than-glamorous photos and then threaten to share them online unless you pay a fee. While blackmail is illegal, sharing photos you sent voluntarily is not, according to the FBI.
Never share your login info
That includes your online or mobile banking username and password, your Social Security Number, or your credit card and PIN. If a person calls or contacts you pretending to be from One Nevada or another government or financial institution, hang up or stop all conversations and contact us or the agency. As a general rule, a bank, credit union, or government agency will not call asking for money or other private information. They already know a lot about you and your private data.
Don't nibble the bait
If you feel the dating site you are using or the person you are connecting with is stringing you along, leave the situation. You don't owe anyone or any company an explanation.
One Nevada is on Your Side
Catfishing happens every day to countless people throughout Nevada and beyond. You can learn more about catfishing and other romance scams, including how to report them, from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). If you fall victim to a catfishing scheme that parts you from your money or information, give us a call. We'll do what we can to help.