Online dating can sometimes have detrimental results.
Take Manti Te'o, Notre Dame's star linebacker who has been at the center of a high-profile online dating scandal. His “girlfriend,” with whom he had an online relationship, allegedly died of leukemia. This news made Te'o's story front and center during a time when college football players would give their right arm to become “the” media darling.
The details of this story have many trying to determine whether Te’o was the victim of a twisted “catfishing” scandal or if he was behind the whole thing.
In its simplest terms, catfishing is when a person pretends to be someone else using a social media platform like Twitter or Facebook. Typically, the person creates false online identities, particularly to pursue deceptive online romances. Catfishers can create pretty extensive online personas to create legitimacy around their existence.
Fortunately, there are steps we can all take to avoid the catfish. The catfish’s Achilles heel is the fact that they are faking their existence and, therefore, they can’t ever be seen in person. In other words, the best way to out a catfish is to call his bluff.
Do your online homework
Conduct online searches for everything your friend sends you about him or herself. Catfishers borrow characteristics from different people, so the information they provide won’t always point back to the same person. And remember -- talking on the phone isn’t enough.
Use FaceTime or Skype to chat “in person”
As your relationship develops, kindly ask to use a webcam or any video chatting service to see their face. You might get excuses, like having a bad hair day, or a request to chat later. The more excuses you get, the higher your red flag should fly.
Ask to meet in person
An in-person meeting calls the ultimate bluff. If someone keeps coming up with excuses, let them know it is time for you to move on -- and actually do it.
Catfishers succeed because they remain in the dark. Shining the lights of the real world on them is the best way to call them out.