The term “catfishing” was first used in a MTV documentary to describe being fooled with an online dating profile.
“There was a guy online, looking for love,” said Dawn Dugle, Creative Director for Telesouth Communication. “He found this person…he fell in love.”
Turns out, the profile was fake.
However, Dugle said catfishing has evolved to a new sinister level.
“Now it has expanded to include those fake profiles that are going after your money,” said Dugle. “They’re phishing for your money, they’re phishing for your personal information.”
Someone will create a social media profile–Facebook, for example– modeled after someone who already has a profile.
“Then you’ll get a friend request and you’re like “oh I know them,” and you add them,” said Dugle. “And you may even notice it is weird, but it is someone you think you know and they have friends you know of, so you don’t think much about it.”
From there, the owner of the fake profile starts asking you personal questions for information. Because you think you know this person, you’re more trusting.
“They’ll say something like “hey, my phone is dead, can I have your new number,” or they’ll try to get you to donate to some sort of GoFundMe for a fake cause,” said Dugle.
At that point, with trust earned, the scammers slowly get your personal information and can then steal your identity. But that’s not all they can do.
“In some cases, you’ll see someone start a profile and start spreading slanderous fake information,” said Dugle. “That’s really hard to get rid of, to get it taken down.”
Facebook has tried to crackdown with policies such as requiring your real name for account.
“That way, if someone reports a page, it makes it a little easier to get it taken down,” said Dugle.