5 Ways to Protect Yourself from Online Catfishing

Engaging with online strangers these days is like playing Russian roulette but with words, pictures, and videos. We just don't know who is behind the computer and what their motives are. It is because of this obscurity that people often fall for catfishing. Catfishing is a deceptive activity in which a person creates a false persona, mostly on social media, to bait other unsuspecting users into a relationship or defraud them.

5 Ways to Protect Yourself from Online Catfishing

Catfishing can be motivated by the urge for revenge, low self-esteem, boredom, psychosis, and fraud, while its consequences range from heartbreak to financial losses. Here are five ways you can protect yourself from online catfishing.

1. Prioritize in-person engagement

Perhaps one of the most typical characteristics of catfishing is that scammers do not like anything other than texting. You may get a lot of excuses as to why they do not prefer other forms of communication. Two of the excuses are usually shyness and poor internet connection. However, before you fall for that, try to insist on the following:

Video calls

Insist on video calls. To ensure you communicate with a genuine person, insist that you see them on a video call. They are probably luring you into a bad deal if they don't agree to this. However, if they agree, check the photos and videos they use online against what you see and confirm if it's the same person. They are most likely catfishing you if there are major inconsistencies in physical appearance.


Meet-ups are a very straightforward way to confirm someone's real identity. However, things can easily go south, so be sure to meet at a safe and public place. Confirm their offline identity against their online identity and ask them questions to check for inconsistencies.

2. Do a background check

It may seem obvious, but the reason why some people still get duped online is because they do not do background checks. Here are some quick background check techniques:

  • Use reverse search websites like Google Reverse Image Search to check if the images posted are stolen or authentic.
  • Use people search sites to get more information about the person you are talking to and confirm if they are really who they say they are. Such sites also keep information about people’s criminal backgrounds and other records, so if you conduct a background check on a person, you will know if they had/have any legal issues.

You can also try googling the people who are trying to interact with you to see if they are mentioned in any articles about catfishing or other fraudulent activities.

3. Be extra careful

It is always better to be safe than sorry. Consider the possible damages a catfishing attempt can cause: emotional trauma, loss of money, sextortion, and even reputation damage. The stakes are so high; therefore, always act strategically when dealing with a stranger.

Don’t trust until you are sure

Be strict about getting to know someone first before sharing too much. Approach every online conversation with caution. Do not be quick to do as the stranger says. Take your time to think about what you are about to do. You can seek guidance from friends and family or testimonials from people who have been through a similar situation before.

Don’t fall for fake accounts

Do not be quick to accept social media requests from so-called “celebrity accounts”. Slow down before engaging with them. Instead, check for their verification mark, which is pretty standard for public figures on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and TikTok. They are most likely using a stolen identity if they don’t have a blue tick, and you may be dealing with a fraudster. If you receive messages from “Justin Bieber” who doesn’t have a blue tick, you are 100% getting scammed.

Don’t trust strangers

Treat every stranger on social media with suspicion. If a stranger initiates a conversation, remember that they can pose a risk to you and the data you may share with them. Therefore, act with utmost caution.

As a rule of thumb, never share personal information with strangers. If a stranger is acting too suspiciously and you don’t feel like trusting them, ask for their phone number. If they send it, head to PhoneHistory to compare the details with the ones provided on social media. If there are too many mismatches, don’t engage in further conversation with the person. Just block them. If they keep bothering you from other accounts, report these accounts to the platform you are on.

4. Manage your social media settings

Making your profile private can help safeguard your information from a scammer. In that case, no one can download your profile picture to trick other users. Also, this would make it difficult for fraudsters to target you online.

Make sure only people you know have the privilege to engage with you easily online. Making your account private is especially necessary if you are facing too many scammers. They may have their own group chats where they send profiles of people to scam, and that is why more than one scammer is sending you messages.

If you suspect someone of malice, stop texting them, report them to the platform's admins, and block them. Even though using someone else's profile pictures isn't illegal, if they do that to harass and bully you intentionally, you can file a lawsuit.

5. Trust your intuition

If "Mark Zuckerberg" sent you a friend request on Facebook and ironically started asking you for money, you'd be stupid to think it is really him. What is surprising is that many people are falling for this. Do not ignore your inner voice when you tenaciously suspect a person of pretending someone else.

Here are some common red flags you should pay attention to:

  • A person dreads face-to-face meetings, video calls, or just regular phone calls;
  • They have few friends or followers, very few (mostly recent) posts;
  • No interaction with family or friends. For example, no birthday wishes;
  • Professing love for you quickly;
  • No mutual friends;
  • New account;
  • Asking for money;
  • Stolen photos and videos.


Social media has been a great tool for keeping in touch with friends and family, socializing, and meeting new people. However, catfishing has become a worrying trend on all platforms. The ease of creating an account and customizing a profile makes it easier for people to create false personas and use them maliciously against other users.

Due to the severe consequences of catfishing, it is essential to be vigilant and protect yourself against any attempts. The easiest way to do this is to never trust online strangers and avoid sharing confidential details. Also, don't engage with people who won't agree to a face-to-face meeting or video call.

Check the comment section below for additional information, share what you know, or ask a question about this article by leaving a comment below. And, to quickly find answers to your questions, use our search Search engine.

Note: Some of the information in samples on this website may have been impersonated or spoofed.

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Online Threat Alerts Security Tips

Pay the safest way

Credit cards are the safest way to pay for online purchases because you can dispute the charges if you never get the goods or services or if the offer was misrepresented. Federal law limits your liability to $50 if someone makes unauthorized charges to your account, and most credit card issuers will remove them completely if you report the problem promptly.

Guard your personal information

In any transaction you conduct, make sure to check with your state or local consumer protection agency and the Better Business Bureau (BBB) to see if the seller, charity, company, or organization is credible. Be especially wary if the entity is unfamiliar to you. Always call the number found on a website’s contact information to make sure the number legitimately belongs to the entity you are dealing with.

Be careful of the information you share

Never give out your codes, passwords or personal information, unless you are sure of who you're dealing with

Know who you’re dealing with

Crooks pretending to be from companies you do business with may call or send an email, claiming they need to verify your personal information. Don’t provide your credit card or bank account number unless you are actually paying for something and know who you are sending payment to. Your social security number should not be necessary unless you are applying for credit. Be especially suspicious if someone claiming to be from a company with whom you have an account asks for information that the business already has.

Check your accounts

Regularly check your account transactions and report any suspicious or unauthorised transactions.

Don’t believe promises of easy money

If someone claims that you can earn money with little or no work, get a loan or credit card even if you have bad credit, or make money on an investment with little or no risk, it’s probably a scam. Oftentimes, offers that seem too good to be true, actually are too good to be true.

Do not open email from people you don’t know

If you are unsure whether an email you received is legitimate, try contacting the sender directly via other means. Do not click on any links in an email unless you are sure it is safe.

Think before you click

If an email or text message looks suspicious, don’t open any attachments or click on the links.

Verify urgent requests or unsolicited emails, messages or phone calls before you respond

If you receive a message or a phone call asking for immediate action and don't know the sender, it could be a phishing message.

Be careful with links and new website addresses

Malicious website addresses may appear almost identical to legitimate sites. Scammers often use a slight variation in spelling or logo to lure you. Malicious links can also come from friends whose email has unknowingly been compromised, so be careful.

Secure your personal information

Before providing any personal information, such as your date of birth, Social Security number, account numbers, and passwords, be sure the website is secure.

Stay informed on the latest cyber threats

Keep yourself up to date on current scams by visiting this website daily.

Use Strong Passwords

Strong passwords are critical to online security.

Keep your software up to date and maintain preventative software programs

Keep all of your software applications up to date on your computers and mobile devices. Install software that provides antivirus, firewall, and email filter services.

Update the operating systems on your electronic devices

Make sure your operating systems (OSs) and applications are up to date on all of your electronic devices. Older and unpatched versions of OSs and software are the target of many hacks. Read the CISA security tip on Understanding Patches and Software Updates for more information.

What if You Got Scammed?

Stop Contact With The Scammer

Hang up the phone. Do not reply to emails, messages, or letters that the scammer sends. Do not make any more payments to the scammer. Beware of additional scammers who may contact you claiming they can help you get your lost money back.

Secure Your Finances

  • Report potentially compromised bank account, credit or debit card information to your financial institution(s) immediately. They may be able to cancel or reverse fraudulent transactions.
  • Notify the three major credit bureaus. They can add a fraud alert to warn potential credit grantors that you may be a victim of identity theft. You may also want to consider placing a free security freeze on your credit report. Doing so prevents lenders and others from accessing your credit report entirely, which will prevent them from extending credit:

Check Your Computer

If your computer was accessed or otherwise affected by a scam, check to make sure that your anti-virus is up-to-date and running and that your system is free of malware and keylogging software. You may also need to seek the help of a computer repair company. Consider utilizing the Better Business Bureau’s website to find a reputable company.

Change Your Account Passwords

Update your bank, credit card, social media, and email account passwords to try to limit further unauthorized access. Make sure to choose strong passwords when changing account passwords.

Report The Scam

Reporting helps protect others. While agencies can’t always track down perpetrators of crimes against scammers, they can utilize the information gathered to record patterns of abuse which may lead to action being taken against a company or industry.

Report your issue to the following agencies based on the nature of the scam:

  • Local Law Enforcement: Consumers are encouraged to report scams to their local police department or sheriff’s office, especially if you lost money or property or had your identity compromised.
  • Federal Trade Commission: Contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357) or use the Online Complaint Assistant to report various types of fraud, including counterfeit checks, lottery or sweepstakes scams, and more.
  • Identitytheft.gov: If someone is using your personal information, like your Social Security, credit card, or bank account number, to open new accounts, make purchases, or get a tax refund, report it at www.identitytheft.gov. This federal government site will also help you create your Identity Theft Report and a personal recovery plan based on your situation. Questions can be directed to 877-ID THEFT.

How To Recognize a Phishing Scam

Scammers use email or text messages to try to steal your passwords, account numbers, or Social Security numbers. If they get that information, they could get access to your email, bank, or other accounts. Or they could sell your information to other scammers. Scammers launch thousands of phishing attacks like these every day — and they’re often successful.

Scammers often update their tactics to keep up with the latest news or trends, but here are some common tactics used in phishing emails or text messages:

Phishing emails and text messages often tell a story to trick you into clicking on a link or opening an attachment. You might get an unexpected email or text message that looks like it’s from a company you know or trust, like a bank or a credit card or utility company. Or maybe it’s from an online payment website or app. The message could be from a scammer, who might

  • say they’ve noticed some suspicious activity or log-in attempts — they haven’t
  • claim there’s a problem with your account or your payment information — there isn’t
  • say you need to confirm some personal or financial information — you don’t
  • include an invoice you don’t recognize — it’s fake
  • want you to click on a link to make a payment — but the link has malware
  • say you’re eligible to register for a government refund — it’s a scam
  • offer a coupon for free stuff — it’s not real

About Online Threat Alerts (OTA)

Online Threat Alerts or OTA is an anti-cybercrime community that started in 2012. OTA alerts the public to cyber crimes and other web threats.

By alerting the public, we have prevented a lot of online users from getting scammed or becoming victims of cybercrimes.

With the ever-increasing number of people going online, it important to have a community like OTA that continuously alerts or protects those same people from cyber-criminals, scammers and hackers, who are every day finding new ways of carrying out their malicious activities.

Online users can help by reporting suspicious or malicious messages or websites to OTA. And, if they want to determine if a message or website is a threat or scam, they can use OTA's search engine to search for the website or parts of the message for information.

Help maintain Online Threat Alerts (OTA).

5 Ways to Protect Yourself from Online Catfishing