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CATFISHING may seem like a joke to some, but it’s left thousands of singletons around the world nursing a broken heart – and sometimes seriously out of pocket.
Netflix documentary The Tinder Swindler, about conman Simon Leviev, captivated streaming fansCredit: kate_konlin/Instgram
Simon with new girlfriend Kate Konlin after TV doc exposeCredit: kate_konlin/Instgram
Recent Netflix show The Tinder Swindler told how serial scammer Simon Liviev targeted women on the dating app and tricked them into believing he was a wealthy, jet-setting diamond mogul. Despite his convincing profile, it was all a lie.
To prevent you from falling victim to a similar con, The Sun spoke to catfish experts who share their top tips to spot a fraudster.
Tina Wilson, founder of the dating app Wingman, claims there are details in a person’s dating profile that could easily be red flags.
This includes their occupation as most scammers will choose jobs that paint them as a “lifesaver” – such as a doctor, nurse, marine or army veteran.
“A scammer will appeal to the romantic side of what a relationship should look like and opt for a profession that people trust,” Tina told The Sun.
“A ‘Tinder Swindler’ or catfish will utilise their occupation to take advantage and confuse you, they could work in a different country with a dramatic backstory to have you stepping into the drama.”
Kain Jones is the CEO of Pixsy, an online platform that can detect catfish and shows users where their images are being used online.
He believes you can detect a catfish by the way light or shadows appear in an image.
“If the subject is wearing sunglasses and the shadow is on their cheek, but not in the background at the same angle, that could be suspicious,” Kain said.
“It could be a clear giveaway that something doesn’t add up.”
Something could be amiss if the stranger you are talking to online suddenly start mentioning “love or feeling instantly connected” despite never having met you.
Tina said: “If it seems too good to be true, it might me.
“Scammers will often appear to be perfect, saying all the right things at the right times, allowing you to believe they could be your perfect match when in reality it’s all a farce.”
Dating expert Callisto Adams agrees that ‘lovebombing’ is a key trick by catfishers and they are “always moving very fast”.
“The moment you notice them hurry to get into a relationship or say ‘I love you’ or ‘You’re my everything’ is the moment to mark a red flag,” she said.
“Be super cautious once you notice they’re moving too fast, and once you can’t spot a flaw in this person; it’ll save you tears, money, and time.”
Samey holiday photos
Making people jealous with your holiday snaps is one of the joys of going away, but if a person only has pictures from one trip, beware.
Kain said: “People purporting to be a real user on social media may only have multiple images of just one holiday or a beach event because that’s all they could steal.”
Kain believes catfishing has emerged as a result of people “oversharing their lives on social media” – and advises us to be more cautious.
“Posting 30 or 40 photos makes it easy for people to take a few and create a copycat profile or another personality,” he said.
“I suggest limiting your timelines on Facebook and Instagram to six or 12 months, as it reduces how many images a thief could steal.”
Tina agrees and suggests a “picture perfect” profile could be suspicious, especially if they pose with expensive cars and appear excessively flash.
“The scammer has a point they are trying to get across and it could all be a disguise, their life could be far from the perceived reality they present to the world,” she added.
Pictures of flashy cars, holidays or showing off wealth could be red flags, our experts warnCredit: simon.leviev.of/Instagram
While many of us love a holiday snap, posting too many could suggest something untrue according to our relationship prosCredit: simon.leviev.of/Instagram
Tina claims many fraudsters will try to migrate conversations over to an encrypted messaging app, such as WhatsApp, very quickly.
“Scammers will love to text and talk on the phone but video calling will usually be avoided, and excuses will be plenty,” she said.
“If they are being pushy – be careful as there will be a motive behind it.”
They will typically use lines such as “I don’t use Tinder very much” and give their Instagram or WhatsApp handle, Callisto explained.
“Scammers will convey a sense of urgency to make things flow faster and give the impression they are ‘too important for this,'” she said.
Often during the early days of dating, many of us will be tempted to check out our prospective partners on social media.
This is the best thing to do, Tina explains, as it could help to expose a fake profile.
“Scammers will dislike all social media and if they do have an account it will be very basic and will not share personal information,” she said.
“It’s worth checking if their profile appears brand new and if you suspect something, try Google reverse searching their images to see if they are on other profiles or dating sites under other names.
“It could also appear that they have no friends or family, they are the victim in their story.”
Overly filtered images
We’re all guilty of adding the odd filter to hide a spot or bags under our eyes, but sometimes they’re used by fraudsters to mask a manipulated image.
“Heavily filtered images are used to soften some details of a photo,” Kain said.
Kain added that when a head or object doesn’t quite blend into the background, it suggests the image has been altered and could signal a catfish.
“Blurring would be suspicious because mobile phone cameras are much better quality than they used to be, they produce sharper and crisper images than ever before,” he said.
Asking for money
Scammers may conjure up fake emergencies to get a romantic interest to send them money, Tina claims.
“It could be for home repair work, money for travel, medical expenses to pay off debt such as a credit card,” she explained.
“They will make it seem like an emergency and make you feel guilty if you don’t do as they ask.”
Tina advises keeping your wits about you while dating online and trusting your judgement if you think something isn’t quite right.
“Even the most intelligent and savvy person is not immune to an online romance scam as matters of the heart can easily cloud anyone’s judgment,” she said.
“Like we have seen with the Tinder Swindler, a catfish can exist with virtually no accountability for their behaviour or actions.
“You don’t need to be a detective to avoid bad dates or falling victim to a romance scam, you just need to be mindful of certain behaviours.”
If you’re in doubt, take pause and “get a second opinion”, Tina suggests, as potential catfish could be lurking anywhere on the internet.