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What is Catfishing: Evolution & Common Types

In the modern world, where people largely rely on social media platforms for enhanced connectivity and interactions, malicious actors are exploiting the anonymity of the online world and luring vulnerable people into their deceptive traps. Imposters conceal their true identities and disguise themselves as attractive and charming individuals to trap victims emotionally. Online romance scams, better known as catfishing are substantially increasing, as cybercriminals employ advanced technology to generate fabricated identities and manipulate people into believing them.  

Quick Insights into What is Catfishing 

Catfishing is a type of cybercrime, where malicious actors use others’ identities even their names, addresses, or images to create a whole new identity to emotionally trap unsuspecting people. This malicious technique is employed to scam people asking for wire transfers or even seeking sensitive information. Vulnerable people unaware of the fact that are being trapped, end up sharing their sensitive information or even images, which are further exploited by imposters to conduct illicit activities. 

Catfishing scams are not conducted only for personal gains, sometimes they are executed to fulfill loneliness or emotional needs. Imposters generate fantasy-based identities and fabricate intricate stories to attract vulnerable people and create a false sense of trust. The Internet is used as a shield to preserve anonymity and malicious activities are performed in the name of others. 

Origin of Catfishing Scams 

The term catfishing was inspired by the documentary ‘catfish’ released in 2010, where a woman deceptively fabricated an identity to lure a male for personal gains. The woman who emotionally lured a man later turned out to be a 40-year-old housewife, was using a fake identity with malicious intentions. The documentary gained widespread popularity as it was a unique concept back then and it depicted that fake identities can also be used to emotionally trap people rather than defraud victims financially. 

Types of Catfishing Scams 

Undoubtedly, the concept of online catfishing scams is new, however many individuals have potentially fallen victim to these scams, as reliance on online platforms has considerably surged. A study indicates that one in five individuals claim to be victims of online scams, accounting for 20% of online users falling into the trap of fake personas. Catfishing scams are continuously evolving and come in various forms, with the cohesive target of malicious purposes. 

  1. Romance Catfishing Scams 

The most common type of online catfishing scam is where fake identities, often attractive and charming, are used to emotionally lure unsuspecting people. A fake sense of trust and affection is provoked, which is further exploited for personal gains. Imposters often use fake identities to create fake profiles and use these profiles on online dating sites to develop relationships with targeted people, later asking to share sensitive information and sending hefty wire transfers.

  1. Catfishing for Identity Theft 

Identity theft is deemed a crime in many jurisdictions, it involves a deceptive tactic where malicious actors steal someone else’s personally identifiable information including name, address, social security numbers, or even images for malicious purposes. The stolen or manipulatively obtained information is employed to create new identities or open new accounts to facilitate illicit activities. 

  1. Catfishing Scams for Financial Gains 

Imposters often disguise the identity of legitimate bodies or even senior executives in the companies, asking employees to conduct large financial transactions. Often financial information is also acquired, which is later used to log into financial systems and damages the integrity of financial systems. A sense of emergency is often created to ask individuals to immediately share their financial information like credit card details or send funds transfer under pretenses. 

  1. Catfishing for Revenge

This type refers to an online scam, where imposters use targeted individuals’ information and identities with the unethical purposes of revenge. Imposters spread false information, or rumors to publicly embarrass the victims, provoking a sense of shame, social isolation, and humiliation. The consequences of revenge catfishing scams are far-reaching, as they extend beyond the digital world tormenting the reputational image and relationships, and imposing severe psychological effects. 

  1. Cyberbullying Catfishing Scams 

This malicious type of online catfishing scam combines fabricated identities with the element of cyberbullying, tormenting the reputational image of victims and provoking deep emotional distress. Cyberbullying catfishing takes various forms including false friend requests, deceptive support groups, or public shaming campaigns, imposing far-reaching consequences on the mental health and societal image of the victims. Cybercriminals don’t directly use their identities but employ others’ online personas to emotionally trap victims and exploit vulnerabilities. 

Conclusion 

Undoubtedly, online catfishing scams are increasing at a distressing rate, however, it’s effortless to spot warning signs of such scams. Individuals are advised to be aware of unsolicited messages or requests, confirm the legitimacy of online interactions before blindly trusting them, and avoid sharing their sensitive information to avoid online catfishing scams. Always trust your instincts and use secured communication channels of online interactions to stay ahead of deceptive techniques.

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