What is Catfishing?  Is Catfishing Illegal?

What is Catfishing?:- People connect and build relationships—often with strangers—through social media sites, dating apps, message boards, chat services, and video games. However, what would happen if the person you've been in contact with wasn't who they claimed to be?

What would you think? If you fall for someone’s catfishing. In severe circumstances, someone may create a completely new identity in order to communicate with others online.

What is Catfishing?

The dishonest act of creating a false identity in order to deceive others is known as “catfishing.” Some use catfishing as a means of self-defense, dream fulfilment, or emotional control over others. Some employ social engineering attacks in conjunction with catfishing.

Typically, catfishers utilise stolen images and a fictitious persona to trick people. They go to great lengths to build a believable persona, and they frequently target weak people who are seeking love or connection.

Victims of catfishing occasionally suffer terrible outcomes. Becoming duped by someone you believed to be trustworthy can have a negative emotional impact that damages your reputation, cause financial losses, and cause mental health issues.

Is Catfishing Illegal?

The 2010 documentary “Catfish” contributed to the term’s rise in popularity. The journey of New York City photographer Nev Schulman, who travelled across the nation to meet “Megan,” a lady he had been corresponding with online, was documented in the film.

It’s not always against the law to catfish. Establishing a false online identity that differs from your real one is not illegal. On the other hand, catfishing may signal the start of illicit conduct.

For instance, using a false name to harass, stalk, con, or con someone else is known as catfishing, and it is prohibited in many places. Furthermore, it could be deemed identity theft by the law if a catfisher uses another person’s identity for personal benefit.

Which indicators point to catfishing?

Here are a few indicators that you are dealing with a Catfish: 

The relationship moves too quickly #1

The majority of stories you hear about catfishing describe how the scammer swiftly and powerfully seduces their intended victim. There’s a good risk you’re being catfished if someone seems to be moving your relationship along swiftly in the initial few exchanges without even getting to know you.  

They won’t come see you in person #2

If they repeatedly avoid meeting with you or if they offer an explanation for not doing so. Thus, this might be an indication of deception.

They would never want to confront you #3

These days, video chat is available on all messaging applications. Asking someone to participate in a live video chat with you on one of these apps is a surefire way to determine if they are a scammer. It’s probably a sign of a scam if they decline and insist on only speaking with you via texts and phone conversations, or if they keep putting out reasons when you ask to utilise the video chat feature.  

They inquire about you Personal Information #4

Some of the things you get asked by strangers you meet online, including where you live, work, and where you grew up, may seem innocent at first, but they could be a ruse by a scammer trying to obtain personal information about you. Run for the hills, for example, if someone you met online demands for your credit card number or exact address.

They asks you for Money #5

Everybody occasionally needs assistance, but it should come from close friends or family members rather than strangers you meet online. Consider it a warning sign if someone you met online asks you for money, regardless of the amount or reason. Don’t do that, even if you’ve known this individual for months or even years.

When Catfishing can become Illegal?

  • The victim is going to be the target of theft, fraud, or other negative actions. 
  • The catfish violates copyright laws with the phoney pictures it utilises.  
  • A youngster was fooled into having sexual talks or exchanging explicit images and other material by an adult scammer. 
  • A catfish is someone who poses as someone else and goes about doing actions that damage that person’s reputation. 
  • The victim of deliberate infliction of emotional distress may be able to pursue a civil lawsuit when cyberbullying transpires from catfishing. Plaintiffs, however, have an uphill task in these situations. They have to demonstrate that the catfish behaved in an outrageous or extreme way, going beyond what we would typically find disrespectful or damaging.

When Catfishing is not Illegal?

If none of the aforementioned situations are present or if the purpose of the catfishing is to find a love partner, it is not criminal. Although assuming the identity of another person online could be against the rules of that specific website, it is not unlawful.

What Happens If You Send Money to a Catfish?

A romance scam is a deceptive plan to steal money from someone by feigning to be in a romantic connection. It can sometimes be discovered that a situation involving catfishing is actually a romance scam. Before requesting money to cover a fictitious emergency, a romance scammer uses phoney internet profiles to establish rapport and gain confidence.

One of the most common forms of fraud for many years, romance fraud increased significantly during the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2021, the FBI received reports from over 24,000 victims of romance scams. Almost $1 billion in financial damages can be attributed to those catfishing cases.

Identity theft is the use of another person’s bank account number or credit card information. The “Tinder Swindler” on Netflix, Shimon Hayut, was found guilty of fraud after tricking women he met on dating apps into opening credit cards for him.

Advice on How Not to Get Catfished

The FBI advises exercising caution when posting anything online since scammers can utilise information you publish on dating apps and social media to learn more about you and target you.

Additionally, it suggests using internet searches to look for the person’s name, photograph, and profile to check if they have been utilised elsewhere.

Recognise the warning signals

  • If something looks too good to be true, it generally is. This is the golden rule of scam detection. To prevent falling victim to a scam, pay attention to the warning indications if you sense that the person you’re speaking with is being deceitful or manipulative.
  • Some people are deliberately dishonest, while others have valid reasons for maintaining caution. Request a video chat with the person if you have any suspicions. If they decline or offer justifications, it’s possible they have a secret.
  • If someone asks you to leave a dating website or social networking site so you may speak with them directly, or if they seem too flawless, you should be wary.
  • If someone pledges to meet in person but consistently finds an excuse not to, proceed with caution. You have strong reason to be cautious if, after a few months, you haven’t seen the person for whatever reason.
  • Never provide money to someone you have only spoken to over the phone or on the internet.

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