TicTocTrack – Catfishing

Five Ways to Spot the 21st-Century ‘Catfisher’

The internet has opened up a world of opportunity to help our children learn, grow and expand their knowledge – but it can also expose them to various online dangers. With social media becoming more effective in driving connectivity and communication, it unfortunately makes it easier for children and young teens to develop friendships with strangers – and with more exposure to online forms of socialising, our children are at a higher risk of many things, including cyberbullying and distressing content.

The most common form of online stranger-danger comes in the form of ‘catfishing’ – whereby a real person has created a fake persona to form relationships with others. With the rise of augmented reality and advanced photo editing software, pretending to be another person isn’t so hard anymore. While our children may think they’ve befriended someone new, behind the screen is someone completely different.

Ideally, your child wouldn’t accept a strangers invitation to connect, but the unfortunate reality is that many still do. Here are five important tell-tale signs to pass onto your children to help them spot the catfisher of today.

The person has few friends and low activity on social media.

A slightly inactive profile with a small network of friends (or none at all) is sometimes a dead giveaway that the person you or your child has befriended is not genuine. Most of the time, you’ll notice that if the profile is active, it has only been recently created so there won’t be posts or photos of them at different ages.

The person has very similar interests and hobbies.

It’s often too good to be true when a stranger you’ve just met online has many of the same interests and hobbies – and rarely is it just a coincidence. Those posing as a different person will generally create a profile that mirrors their target in an effort to start a conversation and build the relationship.

The person is reluctant to speak on the phone or FaceTime but will send photos.

If your child has brought up the idea of a phone call or a want to FaceTime with their new friend multiple times, most likely the catfisher would have made numerous excuses. This is because they need to hide their voice, face and thus their actual identity. Photos are much easier to source or edit to keep up appearances – be careful though, the excuses made to avoid visual and audio interaction tend to be highly creative and believable, rooted carefully in the personality that the catfisher has created.

The person’s photos are low quality and appear to have been edited.

It’s become very easy and accessible to put a filter over a face to transform the way one looks, especially with apps like Snapchat that have augmented reality lenses. To spot an edited photo, look out for lower quality, blurry or pixelated images, particularly ones that have a  glow to them as this signifies an airbrushed filter has been used.

The conversation becomes “romantic” quickly.

The other person will often confess to developing feelings, be it romantic or a strong emotional connection, first, not long after the friendship has begun. Coming on too strong is a good sign that indicates the person you’re speaking to might be a catfish with sinister intentions.

Finding out someone you’ve formed a strong connection with is someone who isn’t who they say they are can be really hurtful – and it’s more common than you think. By sharing these tips to your child or teen, and other parents you know, they can be more vigilant in the cyber community and protect themselves from online strangers.

For further resources on catfishing, check out this eBook from the QLD Police.

Karen Cantwell is CEO of iStaySafe, the developer of the TicTocTrack child safety smartwatch.


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