Have you been catfished? It could happen to anyone, so learn how to protect yourself.
I think it’s safe to say that in today’s world, most of us rely heavily on technology for most things, especially when it comes to communication. I will confess that I could not imagine life without my fancy smartphone, stylus pen, pinned capsule wardrobes, and status updates. In a society where you can swipe right for a Friday night date and double-tap to like a photo from someone across the world, it would be wrong to praise all the magical things that the internet brings us without shedding some light on the dark underbelly of what lies beneath.
It’s the internet. What’s the worst that could happen?
“Catfishing”, “fraud”, or straight up just “getting punked”. Call it what you will, but it all comes down to the fact that nothing is safe over the internet. Including you. Maybe it’s happened to you or someone you know, and chances are, you have probably read about it happening to someone else.
Remember the Nigerian Prince offering to send you 1.5 million dollars that you inherited in exchange for your routing number are over? He has been replaced by something far worse. Today’s internet scams have increased tenfold thanks to social media and online dating, where scammers have their pick of profile pictures and personal information. With the click of a button, new profiles are created day in and day out by internet scammers. For what purposes? The possibilities are endless, but we are more and more commonly seeing the extreme situation where scammers steal the complete identity of another human being. They then use this information to “catfish” an unsuspecting victim on the other side into thinking they’re someone they’re not.
While most commonly seen in online dating, catfishing could be used for several nefarious purposes. These people will stop at nothing to lurk their way in and wait for the next victim to bite on their bait. They will earn the victim’s trust by chatting online, sending flirty pictures and text messages galore. In exchange, these predators can collect anything from their prey, from pictures to social security numbers, to bank account information. In the worst cases, kidnapping or murders can take place. I know that’s some heavy stuff. It’s a tough pill to swallow, but this is reality.
If you have any sort of presence over the internet, you are at risk.
So before you deactivate your Facebook account, I want to share something that can change all of this and maybe even save someone’s life. I started this off by saying that we are a technology-driven society, right? Well you can fight fire with fire as they say. These scammers are savvy with their internet skills, but it’s all over when you bring out the big guns and ask to verify their identity. You can’t trust easily faked selfies. Even a phone call doesn’t help, as voices can be digitally manipulated. The only real way to protect yourself is to simply say, “let’s do video”! (see what I did there?)
Emails, texts, pics, and audio are not good enough. They can all be faked. But its hard to fake being a 25 year old beauty queen over live video if you actually look like Steve Buscemi. If your new internet friend refuses to get on video with you, that should be a huge red flag. Nothing beats the modern face-to-face interaction of video for getting the real story. It’s a powerful tool. Video isn’t just for business anymore, it’s an integral part of communication to remind us that we are not handle names and avatars, we are people.