You’re in love, deep, deep, deep in love. It’s a new relationship, but it's really promising! He’s saying all the right things, you’re torturing your friends about this new guy. But you haven’t met yet and it’s been weeks. You show your friends the last pic he sent you.
One of your friends says ‘they’re obviously a catfish’
You don’t even know what a catfish is, let alone what this floppy feline might want with you! So, what is a catfish anyway?
We’ve got you covered with a Gay Man’s Guide to Catfishing
Catfishing, which is actually illegal, has been going on since before Lady Bunny. Yes, older than time and drag queens. Basically, catfishing is where someone might be using an old pic of theirs, someone else’s photos, or maybe even your photos to mislead people.
You might be asking why do people even catfish? Honestly, it could be for anything. From needing extra money, some weird thrill, or even a self-esteem issue, the possibilities are endless and it’s best to not consider why they do it.
Back in 2010, when the phrase Catfish was actually coined, a documentary was filmed by the same name. Catfish is a documentary following the rise and fall of an elaborate lie. Creating an entire family to back up the catfish and using photos from an unbeknownst photographer. It’s a rollercoaster of emotions but oh so worth the watch.
Maybe you’ve been catfished before, maybe you’re being catfished now. For this guide we pulled together 10 tips and signs you can use to spot a catfish.
1. Reverse Image Search
You know that friend who you can go to when you’ve only got a first name and a random photo from Grindr? This is one of their tricks to tracking down Facebook profiles and other digital accounts, quickly and discreetly. I mean, they literally give you everything you need.
Screenshot the pic on your dating app so that you have it saved. With it saved, drag it into the search bar of images.google.com. And Viola! You’ll see anywhere that pic is posted, so if it shows up under multiple accounts with different names, RED FLAGS!
If you’re on a website like Plenty of Fish, you can search even faster. Right-click the image and copy the URL and paste that into Google. Soon enough you’ll never trust an image again until you’ve checked it
This check is honestly so easy you should just be doing it anyway.
2. No Video or Camera
This should be a HUGE red flag. It’s 2020, every phone coming out has 4 cameras covering 360 degrees of your shenanigans, do you really think someone doesn’t have access to a camera? “I don’t use those apps” Bullshit, download it, it’s not hard and most of them are free.
If they’re avoiding Facetime because they’re some android elitist push for Skype or Snap, anything. There are so many ways to see each other now that no excuse is really valid anymore. So, if you’re facing a wall of text just for asking for a pic after the guy said he just got a haircut, red flags.
Don’t agree to seeing him anywhere until you’ve confirmed he’s legit.
3. He won’t even do a phone call
Chatting on the phone is so 90’s but it’s a great way to hear the integrity in someone’s voice. A perfectly worded text can take minutes of editing, but shit’s going to get awkward when you ask them a personal question but they’re living in a lie.
You’d catch any hesitation and any awkwardness in their response. Maybe it’s because of those reasons that they’re avoiding calls. Hell, they might even be lying about gender and you would certainly catch that on the phone!
Major red flags if he says he can only message on this app/site, but you see other profiles around. If he dodges these types of questions, he’s hiding something for sure.
4. Profiles are not making any sense
No one has wished them a happy birthday, ever, there’s not even random posts from a crazed relative with opinions no one wants to know about. I mean, it does kind of sounds like heaven, but also fake!
He says he’s not into social media, he’s never on so he doesn’t post anything. Weird, and slightly terrifying. Why have all this information up only to not use it? Wouldn’t that have been a waste of his oh so little time to even create the profiles?
There’s no group pics, and his friends have never posted on his wall. Maybe all his photos were uploaded the same day. These should all be red flags to you, and you should reconsider your next move with this guy.
5. What they say just doesn’t add up
The biggest sign of a catfish is the insane lies they tell. And the absurd lengths they go to keep them up. His profile says something like “I’m in the film industry” but y’all in a small town. Girl, do I have to clock you on this?
Some of what they will say is likely totally true but watch out for reaching stories. If something seems fishy, it likely is. Whether it’s a far-fetched career or tales of royalty, these master story tellers will say anything.
Stay away, henny.
6. They’re spinning some wild stories that sound like... fantasies
What they say sounds impossible, like inhumanly impossible. No one takes THAT many vacations and if they do, don’t they just buy a boyfriend at like Zara?
From those vacations to his work or ‘company he owns’ he’s an expert storyteller, he always has you reading every word. Thinking it’s crafted just for you.
And it is, just for you to give them money, which brings us to:
7. Asking for money
This would never happen on any normal first date, let alone before you even get there. Catfishers might ask you for small or big amounts of money. It goes without saying, but do not be giving random men your hard-earned cash.
Honestly, the stories are wild. With some catfish asking for THOUSANDS of dollars. Recently a reporter in Canada actually tried catfishing her catfish, you can read more about it on CTV’s website.
8. Their job sounds about as legitimate as a McDonald’s Weight-loss Diet
They have to travel so much for work, but they’re never close enough to see you. Their job requires them to be ‘discreet’. Or, more likely, they’re married and in denial. If they can’t love themselves how in the hell are they going to love someone else, I.e. YOU.
They’re an aero-tech-entrepreneur, a Nasa engineer, and a member of the secret service. Not only does that sound like completely fake news, they’d be way too busy to have time for a new relationship.
This is a huge red flag, if he’s lying about a job, does he even have one? What else is he hiding?
9. They’re coming in hot – way too serious way too fast!
Because you can constantly message it’s easy to slip into a comfortable space. This false intimacy will have you saying ‘I love you’ to this stranger in no time.
They’ll become the last person you speak to at night. Promising the world, but won’t meet, ever. The stories they tell weave a picture that’s just too good to be true.
Honestly, you might not ever get to find out if any of what they say is real. You might never even know their real face. But they will make you fall so hard for them you have to keep yourself in check.
10. You’ve got a gut feeling that won’t go away.
You’ve had this feeling for a while. Maybe you’ve caught him in a little lie, he sweetly brushed it off. Over time there have been a few more, also brushed aside with praise and heart emojis.
Regardless, it’s built up since the beginning and you can’t simply ignore it. You have to trust in your intuition if nothing else, right? Our gut feelings are often the ones we’re most confident in.
Wrapping it up
The experience can be scary, you’ve shared a lot of personal information with this person. And honestly, a lot of time. It’s no surprise to feel loss, emotionally. There are actual networks of these people around the world. Grifters, romantic thieves, they have many names, and in the US alone over $140 million was stolen through some form of relationship scam.
If you’re being catfished it’s best to get all the info you can on the person before you start reporting or engaging with them. Screenshot their account info and any photos available, even get your friends to report them.
If they’re using your photos you could even go so far as to send a cease and desist letter directly to them. You can find tons of templates online. The letter might convince them to even take the pics down before the admins remove their account.
Usually any sort of threat or communication from the account they stole pics from will spook them into blocking you. Don’t expect any response communicating with the people behind the catfish, they’re likely going to be scared off once they’re called out.
Since catfishing is impersonation and is totally fraudulent, people can get into a lot of trouble for it.