What is Catfishing?

What is Catfishing?

Valentine’s day; a time of the year for loved ones to celebrate their affection and romance for one another, often including the giving of a card, a bunch of colourful flowers and an overly priced box of chocolates. For all the singletons, valentines day can be prime time to put themselves on the market for a new partner, but this can make them extremely vulnerable to a growing cyber crime, referred to as Catfishing.

Catfishing is a form of deceptive activity, often known as “romance fraud” in which a cyber criminal creates a fake identity online (most notably social media sites such as Facebook or Instagram) for the purpose of luring someone into a relationship – usually a romantic one – with the aim to steal money or personal information.

This phenomenon received substantial public attention in 2010 when a documentary called ‘Catfish’ highlighted this particular scamming technique.

You may have heard the terms “phishing” or even “spearphishing” – they both refer to attempts by cyber criminals to gain personal information to compromise bank accounts or damage reputation. Phishing is a broader term for wide-reaching non-targeted scams, whereas spearphishing attacks target a particular group of people or even individuals.

Catfishing can and does often include elements of phishing and spearphishing to prey on individuals. It is usually done with the intent of gaining rapport and consequently, access to information and resources that the victim has access to.

Statistics surrounding Catfishing

With the growing popularity of online dating, it is no surprise that catfishing is a favoured technique for cyber criminals. Here are some stats to put the dangers of catfishing into context.

  • A new survey from Sugar Cookie found that one in three of its readers have been catfished,  with 20% of people sending money to catfishers.
  • Scamwatch received nearly 4000 reports of dating and romance scams last year, with losses of over $24.6 million – a 20 per cent increase from 2017.
  • Women reported a total financial loss of almost $20 million while men reported a total loss of almost $5 million. People aged 45 to 64 were the most affected.
  • Over 28% of online daters have been contacted in a way that made them feel harassed or uncomfortable.
  • In terms of free dating sites, 10% of accounts are scammers.
  • According to a Sugar Cookie survey, 25% of catfishing victims felt humiliated by their experience, 13% heartbroken, and 9% said it caused mental health issues.
  • A survey revealed that 30% of Tinder users are married, while another 12% are in a relationship.
  • There are  83 million fake Facebook accounts.

Tips to protect yourself from Catfishing

      • Be suspicious of someone who contacts you randomly.
      • Don’t be afraid to Google search someone you’ve just met online.
      • Never ever give your personal information or photos to anybody you do not know.
      • If someone is pursuing you online, you have every right to ask as many questions as needed to put your mind at ease.
      • Stick to more reputable dating sites. These sites usually charge a fee, which keeps catphishers at bay.
      • Don’t hesitate to order a background check on an individual.
      • Never give anybody you met online money.
      • Stay in control by contacting them the way you prefer like Skype, telephonically or via video chat.
      • Last but not least, unfortunately, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.


  • By following these simple guidelines and approaching online connections with a level-head, you should be able to steer clear of people who are out to deceive and harm you. For more comprehensive cyber security training, get in touch today to speak to a member of our team.

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