Gone are the innocent days when interacting with a stranger online or a chat room you could find a great friend and sometimes even the love of your life. With social life going virtual and plethora of platforms to socialise, there has also been a sudden surge in crime rate and types. A visible proof of this are the endless news stories on vulnerable people being duped by people with fake profiles. While some of them can cause a heartbreak, a lot of them leave people distraught, low on confidence, scared, blackmailed and much worse. Welcome to the dark world of Catphishing (pronounced as Cat‘f’ishing)!
What is Catphishing?
You meet someone online, find their picture attractive. A smooth talker, he/she, quickly makes a way in your heart. You both decide to meet up, but every time some excuse seems to crop up until one day the person vanishes, leaving you heartbroken and distraught! That’s Catphishing!
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Catphishing, is a very common Internet scam and mostly occurs on dating sites. The catfisher (the criminal) would create a fake and attractive profile to catch the attention of victim. Well for many, the profile comes across as a person right out of their favourite movie or book! But, what may look like a genuine profile, if observed carefully, is a fake one!
Intent Behind Catphishing
There can be many reasons behind Catphishing. It can be used to misuse the emotional side of people to con them, black mail victims and sometimes even for sexual exploitation. These criminals would usually talk just what the victim wants to hear eventually, painting a rosy picture.
This however, is not only limited to individuals but also sometimes individuals can be the source to target an organization. An example of this has been the attack by one Ms. Ash a part of the Iranian ‘Mia Ash’ attack. They wanted to get through individuals with access to special network at Deloitte. The profile showed that of a beautiful 30 yr old successful British photographer with two art school degrees. The intent of launching this catphish attack was to install a malware in Deloitte database.
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Protect Yourself and Your Loved Ones
Unfortunately, Catphishing is not yet illegal in many countries, which makes it all the more important to protect ourselves and the ones we care for. Some of these below mentioned points if reflected in a stranger’s profile should be treated as warning bells:
- Extraordinary profile. For Example, they would have a LinkedIn profile which reflects too many degrees, very successful career, too many achievements too soon.
- Avoid meeting in person. They would have an excuse ready every time you suggest meet.
- Rare group photographs. They will rarely have pics with someone else.
- May ask too many personal questions early on, which anyway is not courteous. If someone asks for your address or where you work or where you stay, treat it as a red flag. Often children give away their address or phone numbers to strangers they start trusting.
- Most of their followers or friends may also be fake profiles.
- They would mostly insist on getting in touch on personal chat windows than on platforms like dating websites.
CatPhishing is much more common than you think, and unfortunately children, teenagers, and women are the most common victims. As a part of the society, it is important not only to protect ourselves but also our loved ones. So next time you get to know someone close to you all excited about someone they met online, do make sure to make them aware of the possibility of a phishing attack. As is said, be safe than sorry!
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