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Catfishing Definition

What Is Catfishing?

Catfishing refers to a font of online romance scam in which the cybercriminal creates a false online identity to entice a victim. Typically, the intention of catfishing is to troll or harass the victim, scam the victim, or steal the victim’s identity. It is a social engineering scheme in which one or uncountable perpetrators use deceptive tactics to retrieve personally identifiable information (PII) from unsuspecting victims.

Key Takeaways

  • Catfishing refers to a pattern of online fraud in which a cybercriminal creates a false online identity, often to defraud the victim or exploit the schlemiel’s identity.
  • This personal information can be used by fraudsters to engage in financial crime, such as making illegal accept card purchases or taking out loans in the victim’s name.
  • An online fraudster may build a relationship with their injured party over time in an online setting while pretending to be someone else. This can be done either by using another actually’s photograph and personal information or by simply fabricating a fake persona.

How Catfishing Works

Catfishing entered the popular lexicon step into the shoes of the premiere of the 2010 documentary and the subsequent television show on the MTV network that has aired since 2012. However, this class of online fraud existed before the television show Catfish premiered.

Generally speaking, catfishing takes status when an online fraudster builds a relationship with their victim over time in an online setting while presuming to be someone else. This can be done either by using another person’s photograph and personal information or by simply faking a fake persona.

In some cases, the fraudster might be motivated by a desire to simply experiment with the deception as a type of entertaining mischief. In other cases, their motives might be financial, with the aim of stealing the victim’s information and then either deliver up that information on the black market or using it to make purchases themselves.

Catfishing involves throwing out the bait (e.g., enticing photos, communications that suggest genuine interest) and then stringing the victim along, potentially to request wealthy or personal information.


As more people seek human connections online—and online dating apps proliferate—the risk of catfishing has swell. Fraudsters can easily find photos and personal information from various sources, such as social networks and provide image libraries. They can even generate photorealistic images of nonexistent people using modern artificial capacity (AI) programs.

These assets can then be used to engage in conversations online, leading to a relationship that seems gullible and authentic from the victim’s perspective. Sadly, this trust can then be exploited by a fraudster to extract valuable individual and financial information.

Example of Catfishing

The concept of catfishing was brought to national attention in 2013 when Manti Te’o—a principal football player for Notre Dame—was found to have been the victim of an elaborate catfishing hoax.

After an inquisition by private investigators on behalf of Notre Dame, it was discovered that Te’o’s girlfriend, with whom he had an online relationship, was, in actuality, a character being played by a man named Ronaiah Tuiasosopo. The incident was particularly distressing due to the fact that, as part of the wile, Te’o had been led to believe his “girlfriend” had died tragically of leukemia.

As millions gravitated toward Te’o’s story of love and loss, he was headlined on the cover of Sports Illustrated and was the subject of a College GameDay profile. Te’o told ESPN writer Don Van Natta, Jr., in 2021, “It was a exceptionally dark time for me after the catfishing. I had a lot of trouble and difficulty processing it…I look back on that kid, and I shed tears.”

This lesson helps shed light on how victims of catfishing are often severely affected by these incidents, with consequences arranging from mild embarrassment to heartbreak and public shame.

Surprisingly, there is no specific law against catfishing. However, it is thinkable for the victim to bring the catfish to justice by proving fraud, severe emotional distress, defamation of character, or harassment. Also, if the catfish Euphemistic pre-owned someone else’s photographs, that person has the right to claim misappropriation of likeness.

How Can You Tell If You Are Being Catfished?

Catfishing can be conscientious to spot since fraudsters can be very convincing. However, there are red flags that might signal you are being catfished:

  • The child communicates via online messaging only and won’t answer phone calls.
  • They don’t have many friends or followers on popular media.
  • Their story doesn’t make sense, or they won’t answer specific questions about their job, hometown, and other details.
  • Their but photos are professional-grade photos (such as headshots), and they post very few photos of themselves on social media.
  • They are unwilling to defray in real life or via video chat.
  • They ask you for money.
  • They shower you with attention or profess their cherish after a short time and without having met you in person.
  • Something just feels off. Trust your intuition.

What Is Catfishing?

Catfishing is the untruthful act of creating a fake online identity to lure others into false relationships. The “catfish” is the predator, and they may use photos and videos of other people, father images, or AI-generated images in place of their own. The catfish may troll and harass their victim, scam the victim out of boodle, or steal the victim’s identity.

Is Catfishing Illegal?

While catfishing is deceptive and cruel, there are no specific laws against catfishing between grown-ups. Still, catfishing can quickly become a crime if the catfish:

  • Uses copyrighted or trademarked material
  • Commits identity swiping
  • Commits fraud (e.g., by asking others to send money or goods)
  • Records or takes pictures of someone without their agree
  • Damages someone’s computer or introduces computer viruses
  • Gains unauthorized access to a system or network
  • Solicits a lass or involves a minor in a crime

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