What is Catfishing Online: The Signs and How to Protect

Jorge Felix  - Cybersecurity Expert
Last updated: November 7, 2023
Read time: 11 minutes

This article introduces the concept of online catfishing and the counter-measures a social network user can take to prevent falling victim to it.


The internet has given scammers a great new toy to play with. Among all the digital scams, perhaps the lowest one is “catfishing.” In this modality, a person will use an alternate and false identity to win over somebody else’s trust. From there, things can go almost everywhere, unfortunately. Because awareness is the best way to avoid falling victim to catfishers, this article gives you all the essential information you need to know about the issue.

Social media and online dating are signs of our times. Both phenomena exploded over the last decade, and catfishing grew along with both explosions, as could only be expected. In 2020, more than 23,000 US residents fell victim to catfishing. And that was with the Covid-19 pandemic at its worst stage. Moreover, consider the damage it does. Those 23,000 victims lost about 605 million USD as their catfishers succeeded.

So what is this “catfishing” thing you keep hearing about? How can you get catfished? Where? Why? What are the signs? What can I do to protect myself from a catfishing artist? If these questions bother you, you’ve landed at the right place. Here, we tell you everything you need to know about catfishing.

What is catfishing?

A catfisher is an internet user who falsely persuades another internet user about wanting a romantic relationship. The scam usually involves creating a false identity, complete with made-up stories, fake pictures, and everything else the catfisher needs to seem completely genuine.

Catfishers come in many flavors. Some of them want to have more romantic attention from another person. But there is also a more mercenary and malicious species with darker motivations. Many of them seek to earn the victim’s trust. Then, they hit, and they ask for money. Once the situation has gone that far, a variety of additional strategies can come into play, like sextortion. Whatever it takes to get the cash they want.

And why is this thing called “catfishing,” we hear, you ask? Well, nobody knows. There was a popular It told the story of a young man who fell for a woman sporting a false Facebook profile. However, the documentary made the term known. It didn’t invent it.