From the Urban Dictionary: A catfish is someone who pretends to be someone they’re not using Facebook or other social media to create false identities, particularly to pursue deceptive online romances.
We all make jokes about serial killers and pervs prowling the web, but the far more likely risk is running into the ubiquitous online dating “catfish.” You spend an hour chatting with a Scarlett Johansson look-alike and then Joan Rivers saunter into the restaurant while you try to disappear into the upholstery. So how to catch a catfish online? In the spirit of saving you a red-faced night of panic, praying you won’t see someone you know, here are some tips for making sure you don’t get “catfished” online”.
1. Know the Online Dating Catfish Warning Signs
A few things to watch out for that might suggest a woman is misrepresenting herself:
- Her pic looks a bit dated; this might be a sign it was taken just out of high school.
- Only has one or two pics on her profile – let’s face it, women, especially the good-looking ones, love to get as many shots of their sweet mug online as possible.
- All photos are taken from strange angles that put her in the most flattering light.
- She seems a little too eager relative to her market value (this can also be indicative of scams).
2. A Quick Research Strategy
Social media is a great place to dig up the truth before agreeing to anything. Dating profiles are sometimes limited, but most women, even the so-so ones, have tons of images plastered across social media.
There are a few ways to go about getting this info:
- Ask if she has Facebook. Friending women you just met can be a minefield sometimes, as it gives a little bit too much information and robs a lot of your “mystery.” So, consider setting up a second, limited-info account just for dating purposes, especially if there are photos on your account that might put you in a bad light. Alternatively, scope out her profile without actually adding her, assuming her privacy settings allow doing so.
- Search for the username that she’s using on her dating account. People often use the same one across multiple accounts.
- Do a Google image search using one or more of her pics and see if something comes up.
- Facebook has a robust search feature. Try search strings like “Women named HER NAME who live in HER CITY” or “Women who live in HER CITY and work at HER EMPLOYER.” How you phrase the search obviously depends on what info you have.
- If you have her email address, you can also use that to search.
3. The Escape Plan
In this department, take a cue from the ladies. Women with options are smart when it comes to leaving an out on dates. And it’s not entirely uncommon for them to instruct a girlfriend to phone about an hour or two into a date she’s unsure about.
The idea is that if she wants to make a graceful exit, she can say an emergency came up and she has to run.
Won’t your date know you’re lying? Well, if she’s a catfish online dating, she’s probably not beating her dates away with a stick. On top of that, the idea behind the escape plan isn’t so much that she won’t suspect anything; it’s more about plausible deniability and allowing you both a chance to save face.
Remember, she’s the one who misrepresented herself; there’s nothing for you to feel guilty about.
4. How to Ask For and Get “The Truth”
It’s not foolproof – some of these girls are just plain crazy – but sometimes straightforward is the best policy. There are a few ways I’ve asked women for the truth in the past.
One is to just come out and ask how legit her pics are. Frame it as wanting to “make sure you’re not a 65-year-old man named Harry,” but be clear that you expect an honest answer.
Another tactic to catch a catfish online is telling her about a bad experience meeting a girl in the past who didn’t live up to her profile. If she’s also misrepresenting herself, chances are she’ll get nervous and give herself away or disappear. You can also follow up the “story” by directly asking about her pics.
Be sure to keep all this light-hearted.
5. When In Doubt, Head to Video
Video is far more honest than photos, so it’s not a bad idea to get a woman on a quick video chat before you meet up. The two downfalls to this strategy is that it creates yet one more barrier to the meet-up and that if any awkwardness transpires she may disappear. Keep it short and sweet.
6. First Date Logistics With Disaster in Mind
First dates with someone you met online should always be low-pressure. Never shoot for the whole dinner and a movie thing coming right out of the gate – that displays a bit too much investment in a woman you don’t know anyhow.
Something brief, like a cup of coffee or a happy hour cocktail, sends the signal that you won’t be hanging out long. Of course, most women intuitively know you’ll go somewhere else after the initial screening, but it gives you the opportunity to make an excuse if she shows up looking like Freddy Kruger.
This type of date also makes it more likely a good-looking woman will say yes. You might even throw in a white lie about having to meet your lawyer after.
Don’t let all this talk of man-eating online catfish scare you away from the rewards of meeting women on the web, but it doesn’t hurt to put some thought into this ahead of time. “Hope for the best but prepare for the worst,” as they say. With these simple tips, you can get out there flirting with your mind at ease.
Want more help navigating the pitfalls of dating online? Or how about accessing a dating outsourcing team that can put your “lead-generation” on autopilot? Get in touch today.
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