How to Avoid Getting Catfished

There’s been a lot of press over the last few weeks about the unfortunate story of Manti Te’o. The Notre Dame star quarterback was supposedly duped into falling in love online, but as it turns out his “girlfriend” was little more than the fictional creation of one of his friends. The media storm that ensued has left Te’o embarrassed, ashamed, and no doubt feeling vulnerable.

The act of getting “Catfished,” a title stemming from the hit MTV reality show “Catfish” in which online fakers are revealed, is becoming more and more prevalent. While being lied to online is common it’s still hard to believe the lengths some people will go to in order to drag out a fictitious relationship for months or even years. If you’re into meeting new people online it’s important to stay vigilant. It’s relatively easy to avoid a Catfish, you just have to know how…

Step 1: Ask for a phone number.


This is a logical step in the evolution of any online relationship and anyone truly interested in pursuing a blossoming romance won’t hesitate. Chatting on the phone can give you an indication of someone’s personality and reveal hidden truths: does her voice sound too deep? Who are those kids you hear in the background? Why does she have a Georgia area code if she says she lives in New York? Ask for answers and expect logical explanations.

Step 2: Check credentials.


Many online daters aren’t aware of the Google Images function that allows them to reverse look-up images on the web. If you doubt that picture of Prince Charming is really him simply go to Google Images and click the camera icon in the search bar – now upload “his” photo and search – Google will show you where else online that picture appears and you can follow the trail from there. Likewise, if his Facebook profile lists a too-good-to-be-true job, search the company name and see what you can dig up. People who lie online typically don’t do a great job covering their tracks and a little investigative work on your part can go a long way.

Step 3: Skype.


In the online world Catfish always find a reason to avoid video chatting. Their computer doesn’t have a camera or it costs too much…whatever the reason, public libraries often offer free video chatting services on library computers and Skype is free. If they’re managing an internet connection and paying for a phone (because you already phone chatted with them, right?) they can find a way to video chat you online. There’s no shame in telling someone you’ve been romancing you want to verify they are who they say they are.

Step 4: Meet up in person.


This is the trickiest step because there are often geographic and economic reasons why meeting up just won’t work. At the end of the day, though, if you’ve spent weeks or months developing an internet relationship it better eventually turn into an IRL relationship otherwise it’s just…talking to a computer. And as with any online-to-real life meet ups, use caution when meeting a stranger for the first time. Always pick a public place and plan the best way to leave if things get weird.

Step 5: Trust your gut.


The hardest step, sure, but the most important. The truth is, most Catfish rely on people’s desire to believe they’ve found their one true love, a diamond in the rough. If the person you’ve been seducing seems too good to be true, they probably are. That achy, gnawing feeling in the pit of your stomach telling you something’s off is nothing to be ignored. Trust your gut when it comes to online dating and matters of the heart…you would in real life.

Have you ever been Catfished? Leave your story and tips for avoiding being played in the comments section.

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