Prime bait: How catfishing can affect anyone online

It has nothing to do with boats or lakes

Stock image. (Pexels)

One of the more popular shows on Netflix of late has been the documentary of Manti Te’o, the former Notre Dame and NFL football player who was the victim of catfishing.

During his senior year at Notre Dame in 2012, Te’o expressed his love for a woman he met and chatted with online, and then told the media that “girlfriend” died on Sept. 11, 2012.

A few months later, a report on Deadspin came out saying that the girlfriend didn’t exist.

Fans and media members roasted Te’o for what they thought was a hoax he carried out all year to earn sympathy, and it was ridicule he had to live with while he was taken in the second round of the 2013 NFL Draft by the San Diego Chargers.

But as the documentary portrays, Te’o was a victim of what’s become a common practice in the Internet age, known as catfishing.

What is catfishing?

It has nothing to do with poles, bait or boats. Catfishing is where someone online lures another into a relationship by using a fictional online persona.

In the case of Te’o, the “girlfriend” he was chatting with was really a hoax perpetuated by a female acquaintance named Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, who put pictures of another female classmate online while chatting with Te’o.

What celebrities have been impacted by catfishing?

There have been several, according to this article by Insider.

With celebrities using social media as a platform to reach fans, it can lead to people reaching out and lying about circumstances or identities.

But while celebrities are more high-profile cases and examples, catfishing can happen to anybody.

What are best ways to prevent catfishing?

Here are six ways people can prevent catfishing, according to Cyber Management Alliance:

  • Do an online background check. Double check someone’s social media profiles or news articles they might have been mentioned in.
  • Know the signs. Such signs could be a catfishes not wanting to voice or video call, not wanting to meet up or asking for money.
  • Don’t share personal information. Don’t give out things such as passwords, addresses or other contact information.
  • Be suspicious. If there is someone you don’t know that well, use caution when receiving friend or message requests.
  • Ask questions that require specific knowledge. If someone is hesitant to answer questions such as places where they claim to come from, that could be a red flag.
  • Use a reverse image search. This can help identify fake images and confirm the authenticity of photos.

Have you seen examples or have been the victim of catfishing? Let us know your stories in the comments below.

About the Author:

Keith is a member of Graham Media Group's Digital Content Team, which produces content for all the company's news websites.