By Nazir Muhammad
Have you ever met someone online with a false identity or been in love with a total stranger, believing he’s real and found out otherwise? That’s a catfish!
As social media (SM) globalised the world, catfishing is scrambling like a bushfire. It happens daily on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok and other social media platforms.
The word “catfish” refers to a person who set up an account with a false identity (Name, Photos, Address, Occupation) SM for fraudulent, deceptive and other malicious purposes.
Social media experts explain that catfishing varies in nature, depending on the target goals. Some pretend to be businessmen to rip off people’s money. Others are merely playing around, toying with people’s emotions for fun because they are lonely, bored or mentally sick. Then, of course, there are also sexual offenders, kidnappers, and rapists, among others.
The vast majority of catfish victims are youths and teenagers. Perhaps, their facileness to fall in love with online friends is the reason. For decades, there are bunches of girls and boys blindly dating people old enough to be their fathers or mothers. Consequently, millions of people are trapped in job scams – losing their hard-earned funds. Often, girls get kidnapped, raped or heartbroken the same way.
A report gathered by Reuters on March 22, 2021, reveals that Facebook took down 1.3 billion fake accounts. However, notwithstanding the efforts, catfishing remains incessant. According to a recent online survey conducted by an American website, one out of four women (23 per cent) admitted that they had catfished someone. In contrast, one out of three males (38 per cent) also fessed up similarly. In addition to these reports, another statistic said that about 73% of people online use photos of someone else rather than actual pictures of themselves. No less than 10% of all online dating profiles are scammers.
Shocked? Alas, it is true and daily business for the culprits -the only way to shield yourself is to be circumspect with online friends.
It is not a one-day job, if not impossible, to get rid of all catfishes online, but you can cover up yourself by getting adequate cyber awareness. However, having eagle eyes to spot the doers will also help.
Often, a catfish could be easily discerned whilst desperately trying to be too friendly and familiar to their target – denying the face-to-face meeting, or refusing a video call could be a significant clue.
Furthermore, to verify a person’s identity, meet in person or make a video call/Skype; monitor people they interact with online and unrelentingly download his photo and verify it via Google image search to confirm whether it appears somewhere else.
FYI: No matter how close you are with your online bae/fiancee, concede to meet only in the daytime and on busy places or streets. Shun hotels and uncrowded areas for your safety.
Nazir Muhammad writes from Gombe, Gombe State. He can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org.