I’ve learned a lot through my experiences last year and have wanted to share my findings for some time, as usual it went on the long finger. Some of these have not been experienced by me personally but through other stories I’ve heard.
My goal is to make you a somewhat more cautious while hopefully not putting your defences up too high. There are some great people in this world, what I’m giving you is merely a checklist to hopefully filter out some of the ones that are not worth your time & attention.
The best tool at your disposal is Google reverse image search. Do you see that little camera to the right of the search box? Click on it and follow the instructions. Check every photo they’ve ever posted or ever been tagged in.
- Are there plenty of pictures available?
- Are their friends tagged in their pictures?
- Are they tagged in their friends pictures?
- Are they even visible in friends pictures?
- Are they reluctant to send you more pictures? Why?
- Are all pictures of them on their own?
Never ever settle for text only.
- Whatsapp, text, private message, DM or Googletalk should only be short-term tools.
- They should be as eager as you to move to phone calls or Skype.
- Common excuses for not skyping include poor bandwidth, bad hair days, a black eye from sports. 1 is forgivable but no more. The more excuses you get, the faster you should be running – in the opposite direction. These excuses should raise alarm bells.
- Have they ever stood you up? Have they had an elaborate or tragic reason? Is there any possibility they’re avoiding a real world meeting?
3. Human Factors
We are social beings and as much as you might like to believe you are strong and independent, we all seek out interaction and companionship.
- Online you’re never getting the complete picture of a person; always insist on more, you absolutely need to meet.
- There are so many little things about them that you don’t know, like how do they dress, are they always late, these things can be infuriating in real life.
- Have you any real evidence of how they treat others in their company.
- If you don’t experience a character trait for yourself, do not assume it’s there just because it seems to fit the character profile.
- We invent more than we’d like to admit of what we like about people, try to be extra cautious of this online.
4. Friends of Friends
Never assume a friend of a friend is what they say they are. You may only know real people on Facebook but your friend may link to anyone that wants to chat. Accept that your friends may not use the same judgements as you when connecting with strangers.
5. The Job
Like it or not, the rescue services and medicine are prime professions for these fakers to impersonate. If your new online friend is a fireman, nurse, EMT, doctor, lifeguard or anything similar you should think twice. Perhaps they think we’ll fall for their charms more easily if they’re from the helpful professions. Another popular profession is modelling. There is an immediate assumption that this person is good-looking. Do models often search for love online? Maybe they do and I don’t mean to be harsh but how many models have fallen in love with you in the real world?
6. The Family
Tragedies happen to all of us but someone would want to be extremely unlucky altogether to have overcome more than one life-changing heart wrenching obstacle. Watch out for:
- Death of a partner or family
- Overcoming cancer
- Car accidents with death or disfigurement
- Disabled relative or close friend
- Anything that provides an unusual challenge to overcome.
7. The Language
It may seem like a test but if he’s genuine then there’ll be no issue. Try to pick questions when learning about each other to verify his back story. If he’s for real then he’ll gladly give you all the information you need.
- In Ireland he should have had Taytos as a child.
- In Scotland he’ll have tasted Irn Bru.
- Does he say gasoline instead of petrol or does he go on vacation?
- In medicine does he talk about a residency but doesn’t work in USA?
- Try to pick local things to test them on although with the availability of the internet it is getting harder to catch out a Catfish.
8. Online investigations
Check for Facebook, twitter, dating sites and LinkedIn. Do they have a consistent history with reasonable amounts of information available? The age of the accounts is very important, the newer it is, the more wary you should be. If they have few friends this is also something to worry about. Admittedly some industries just don’t use LinkedIn but check for an account nonetheless. If the company they work for is well placed on the site but there’s no sign of them then that may be a warning sign.
Many forums prohibit impersonation or falsifying identities. If you find someone doing this, please report them.
- Facebook state that imposter accounts are against their terms and conditions and urge you to report them.
- Twitter only considers an account fake if it purports to actually take on the persona of a real person, imagined people are perfectly acceptable.
- Some dating sites such as Eharmony.com and Match.com base their reputation on their clients. They’ll always want to be informed of fake accounts.
- Forums mostly don’t care about who is behind their accounts but if they are support groups or anything like that, then they’ll want to be informed to prevent fakers.
10. The Law
Unfortunately there’s no law against deception online unless it’s for fraudulent purposes. The best we can hope to do is keep people aware and report fake accounts to the relevant site immediately.
Please make sure you protect your friends and family as best you can by sharing these tips with them.