Catfishing is a kind of social engineering attack where the perpetrator sets up a false online profile to target users on social media platforms. The catfish pretends to be someone else and in doing so, can trick the unsuspecting target into having a fake romantic relationship. 

But that’s just one outcome; on other occasions, the catfish account could be used to spy on the victim, harass or manipulate them.

Real examples of catfishing

  • Online dating scams: Here, the attacker feigns romantic interest in the target and tricks them into sending money or getting favours from them. 
  • Online bullying: In this example, the attacker becomes close with the target only so they acquire enough sensitive information about them and turn around to use it against them. 
  • Harassment campaigns: The catfish in this scenario amasses enough information on the victim and, with multiple accounts, goes on a harassment campaign against them. 
  • Cyberstalking: In this example, the catfish uses a fake account to stalk the target without being seen.

How to stop catfishing

  • Scrutinize the social media profile of any suspicious accounts messaging you, as catfish accounts often lack content. 
  • Point out any discrepancies to them, don’t let them evade the question, and you’ll know for sure if they’re legit. 
  • Do not give in to any emotional pressure regarding sending money, doing any favors, or sending any gifts from any suspicious accounts. 
  • Ensure that you turn down all suggestions to install software to better communicate with others. You should always use reliable, popular, and secure messaging apps such as Twitter.
  • You must avoid sharing private information, especially with suspicious accounts or ones whose authenticity you can’t prove.