BlogDefence9TH NOV 2023
AuthorSamir Yawar
8 min read

5 Ways to Find Out If You’re Being Catfished Online

A blog feature image for a blog post about how to find out if you're being catfished online
BlogDefence9TH NOV 2023
8 min read

5 Ways to Find Out If You’re Being Catfished Online

AuthorSamir Yawar
A blog feature image for a blog post about how to find out if you're being catfished online

Looking to find out if you’re being catfished online? 

Despite what some rom-coms would have you believe (looking at you here Sierra Burgess), there is nothing funny or romantic about being catfished online.

Even the FBI thinks it's not, with over $605 million lost to romance scams in 2020 alone.

It is important to know how to catch catfish attempts online and what you can do to steer clear of online imposters and predators alike. And we will learn how to do just that today.

Find Out If You’re Being Catfished

In this article, you’ll discover:

  • Why do people catfish?

  • What are catfish profiles?

  • Is catfishing Illegal?

  • How to check if you’re being catfished

  • Conclusion

  • Resources

Why do people catfish?

Human beings are complicated. But there’s nothing complicated about wanting to create a false identity to manipulate or defraud people. It is, simply put, dishonesty and deception.

Catfished men and women are targeted for a multitude of reasons. The perpetrator may do it due to:

  • Revenge

  • Loneliness

  • Poor self-esteem

  • Harassment

  • Boredom

Living in the knowledge age, we're surrounded by an unending deluge of information on our smartphones, social media, and instant messaging. The proliferation of online dating apps has made catfishing easier than ever.

Catfishing is very much real. And it doesn’t discriminate no matter what gender you belong to. 

What are catfish profiles?

Catfish profiles are social media accounts created with the express purpose of deceiving you. You can identify them with these tell-tale signs:

  • Fake Profile Picture. It’s usually strangers using a picture of someone else. “Red flags include only having one photo of a very good-looking, model-like person, or a profile that seems too good to be true,” says psychologist and dating coach Dr. Madeleine Mason Roantree.

  • Limited Profile Information. Just like in anonymous chat rooms, catfishers do not fill out their whole information on dating platforms. They rely on the power of charm to sway unsuspecting victims.

  • They focus on you. They want to know about your life, your attachments, and your vulnerabilities. But never about theirs. 

Is Catfishing illegal?

According to, catfishing is generally not illegal, but certain elements of it may be.

What does this mean? It means that representing yourself as someone else online is not a crime. Some people may do it because they are looking for a connection but are too insecure. Others create fake personas to spy on an ex. By themselves, these scenarios don't fall into dangerous territory.

However, catfishing is illegal if someone is using a fake identity to indulge in:

Laws regarding catfishing vary by state. So make sure you consult your lawyer if you believe someone is catfishing you.

How to Check if You’re Being Catfished

“I got catfished.” A horrible experience that nobody wants to be associated with.

It is an extremely unsettling realization to discover that you or your friend is being catfished.

If you feel there’s a chance that you’re getting catfished online, you will need to cut ties with them immediately. Even if you think a catfisher is acting purely out of feelings of loneliness, a relationship needs to be built on trust.

But how do you catch someone catfishing in your midst? Here are a few signs that can help you 'fish' them out:

1. The person doesn’t have too many friends or followers.

Got a friend request? Always check if the person who reached out to you has a legitimate friends and followers list.

How to prove you're not being catfish? Google is your friend here. You can also look up people on search engines if your connection has profiles on other social networks. That way, you can easily verify if a person is who they say they are. Let's call it the Catfish Verify rule.

It's a good idea to adopt the rule for every online connection you come across, especially on online dating sites where most people are not who they say they are.

2. They are notorious for not picking up phone or video calls.

Instant messaging is easy. IMs also make it convenient to put up a facade without putting a face to a profile. It makes things super easy for catfishers to carry on with their ruse.

Try asking a catfisher for their number and ring them up. There’s a high chance they won’t answer any of your calls.

How’s that for a good test of character?

3. They use photos that are too professional.

This is Catfishing 101. Fake people usually use pictures of random people. In most cases, they use professional-grade stock photos of other people to cover their tracks.

Producer Bernard Perham of MTV reality show Catfish has this to say about professional photos:

“Any profile with professional-grade photos, like headshots or comp cards, should raise your suspicion. Regular folks tend to use candids taken by their friends and family on their profiles.”

There you go.

4. They want to know everything about you but nothing about themselves.

You’re talking with this hot girl/guy on a dating app for weeks. They want to hear you go on and on about people at work, your favorite music, your outlook on life, your pets, the whole 10 yards. The moment you ask them about their life, you get vague statements about how they can’t feel at ease being themselves like you do.

Sure, no problem. Some people do take time to be open you tell yourself. 

And then one day, suddenly, they want to know your favorite bank.

Take a deep breath, put your guard up, and recognize a red flag for what is it. Sensitive information like your ID number, bank information, email, passwords, and all should be off-limits to strangers.

5. Have they got their story right?

Catfishers will either tell elaborate stories (read outrageous lies) or contradict themselves (because they are making things up).

If their story doesn’t add up, they make tall promises after tall promises, or tell you its all in your head, well then. Show them the door.


By now, you have learned how to expose a catfish online. Whether you're being catfished on Instagram or Facebook, some common sense rules can help you figure out how to find the real identity of a catfish. It's not hard once you know what signs to look out for.

Don't forget the Catfish Verify rule. And while you're at it, check out our excellent primer on catphishing.

Resources to combat online romance scams

An infographic that details the type of Catphishers you're likely to encounter on dating sites.

Samir Yawar
Samir Yawar / Content Lead
Samir wants a world where people can instinctively whack online scams and feel accomplished without the need for psychic powers. As an ISC2 member, he is doing his bit to turn cybersecurity awareness training into a fun concept with simple, approachable and accessible content. Reach out to him at X @yawarsamir
FAQsFrequently Asked Questions
Look out for warning signs such as reluctance to video chat, inconsistent or fake-looking photos, and stories that don't add up. Be cautious if the person avoids meeting in person or providing specific details about their life.