What Is Catfishing? Is It Legal and How to Find If Someone’s Fooling You

Last Updated on February 2, 2023 by Jeffery Maxwell

Catfishing is when someone pretends to be someone else online. The idea of doing this is to scam someone out of money by making them fall in love with the fake identity. Many people will find catfishing when they are on dating websites. These are fake accounts with fake photos. The idea is to lure people into the profile with sexy photos and make people believe they are this fake person. Catfishing is essentially fake identities online with the hope of gaining money by scamming others. It has become more popular than ever over the last five years and is something that a person online must be careful with.

Unfortunately, catfishing has increased over the last five years, which means you must be more careful than ever while online. People catfish while they are online dating, this seems to be one of the most popular places catfishing happens. So being aware of such online activity is essential to prevent yourself from becoming a victim. So through this article, we will learn more about romance scammers and how to make sure you are not on the receiving end. 

what is catfishing

How Does Catfish Work?

It is a way of someone creating a fake identity with the idea of scamming someone online out of money. In many cases, the scam works by creating a fake account on a dating app. Scammers will take fake photos from social media platforms and use these to try to entice people. They will try to make those desperate, lonely people who are looking for love fall in love with this false identity. Once they have someone interested, they will come up with different stories and ask the person to send money to them. It is a romance scam that has been used thousands of times online and is still being used today. 

This is why it is essential you use common sense whenever you are online. Dating websites are a common place where catfishing takes place. It is also common on social media sites. When people catfish, they are constantly lying to get money from another person. They may pretend to be a hot woman from Russia. They will come up with a story that their mother is in hospital and needs an operation that they can not afford. The victim will feel sorry for the scammer and agree to send money to help them out. These are how romance scams work; with someone else’s photos and some good lying, a scammer can gain financially through a dating website. 

Why Do People Catfish?

There are various reasons why people turn to catfish online. Some are more innocent than others. For example, there are those people with low self-esteem that are not happy with the person they are and want to create another identity. They can use this identity to communicate with others online. Many times they will use social media to chat with others through this fake person account. They are not interested in gaining money from another person. Such people do not feel confident enough to attract others, so they start catfishing just for some attention. 

called catfishing

Then there are more sinister people who are looking to scam others for financial gain. These are the most common catfishers as they create elaborate lies that make people online send them money. They often use dating websites to find victims and pull at the person’s heartstrings with sad stories of relatives who are sick. Because of the excellent quality fake photos, it is not difficult to convince other people online. Once they have someone interested in them, they are potentially able to make a large amount of money from them. 

Psychological Factors

There are different psychological factors that make people catfish online. Sometimes it is just because the person feels lost in life and does not have any friends. Many times a lonely person wants to create someone entirely different for himself to gain friends. Unfortunately, these people do not feel their real life is exciting enough. So they need to create another persona online. This is called catfishing. These people want to have another person’s identity so they can gain new friends and relationships. One of the apparent causes of this type of behavior is not having many friends. These individuals lack friends and need to create a false sense of self for attention. 

Many times people that create fake accounts on dating sites feel that they are lacking in life. This is the reason they want to pretend to be someone else. They like the idea of creating a new identity to meet people. They can sit behind their computer screen and pretend to be another identity, but it is not a real person. They often get lots of satisfaction from communicating online with others, whoever they want to be. It gives these people a sense of freedom and fulfills their needs. They have two lives, their real identity, and their online identity. 

catfishing scam

Financial Reasons

Some percentage of dating site users are looking at gaining financially from catfishing. These individuals are looking to lie and steal from other people online. They use dating sites and dating apps to find their victims and gain money from them. These people are interested in using catfishing as a way to make a living. With the amount of money that can be stolen through catfishing online, it is a huge business. This is why it is essential to look out for the warning signs. 


There are those that do it to harass others online. These people are narcissists and enjoy threatening people and even stalking them. Unfortunately, some people enjoy threatening others while they are sitting at home on their PC. They hide behind their computer and their fake persona to scare others. Many times they will know the person they are harassing, and in some cases, these people are strangers. This tends to happen a lot through social media such as Facebook. It is very sad as many people have committed suicide after being harassed or bullied online. 


This is something that is also common with catfishing. Some people have a history with someone and decide to take revenge online. They are willing to use dating sites to lie and even request nude, explicit photos from them. Once they have these photos, they can use these to extort money. These types of scams are committed by those that have a relationship with the person they are catfishing. Because they are using a fake account, you will never know their true identity. 

Is catfishing legal

Is Catfishing Legal?

This is a tricky one to answer as it is complex. But basically, catfishing is not illegal. It is not illegal to pretend to be someone else online or even use other people’s photos. But once you start catfishing, it can lead to other offenses which are deemed illegal. Once you start using copyright art or trademarks online that do not belong to you, it is illegal. Fraud is illegal, so anyone trying to get someone else’s money. Recording or taking photos of others without their consent is illegal. So a catfishing scam can lead to big problems if you get involved with anything like this. 

Catfishing Statistics

In 2020 and 2021, the world was a different place because of the pandemic. People spent more time at home, and the increase in catfishing was incredible. For example, in the US, 23,000 citizens reported being victims of catfishing, most through social media sites. The financial damage was mind-blowing, with over $600,000 being reported stolen from people online through catfishing scams. The list below shows some stats that may surprise you about catfishing:

  • 64% of catfishers are females
  • Around 35% of catfishers do it for money
  • Over 400 million of the accounts on Facebook are fake
  • 35% of victims suffer psychological issues

As you can see, these stats are surprising. They show how widespread and dangerous catfishing is today. Being cautious when you are online can certainly help you avoid a catfish situation. 

getting catfished

How To Find Out If Someone Is A Catfish?

There are telltale signs of a catfish which you must always look out for online. The most important thing is to always use common sense while online. Making sure you use your brain is essential to not falling victim to catfishing scams. Because more people are online than ever before, catfishing is more popular. Looking out for these things will assist you in being safe and staying away from catfishing.

They don’t have many followers or friends

Anytime you check out social media accounts and the person does not have many followers or friends, it is a red flag. This means the person may have recently created the account just so they can catfish. So this is a sign that you can look out for to avoid being catfished. There are some people that just do not have many friends, but in general, catfishers will often have social media accounts with few acquaintances. The reason for this is that they only use this account to scam people. So if you have met online with a potential catfish, check out their friends list. This can tell you everything. 

They don’t want to make a video call

Another red flag is when the person you are communicating with through a dating profile refuses to share a video call with you. This should instantly get your attention, as most people that are interested in another through a dating site will want to see them. So when someone online refuses this request, you should think about moving on. A video call allows you to see the person you are in contact with. So a catfish will never want to show their true identity, so a video call is a big no for a scammer.

fake identity

They don’t want to meet in-person

Again not wanting to meet in real life, face to face, is a bad sign if you are on a dating website. This usually means there is a problem, and it can mean a catfisher is on the other side. Always use common sense when you are on a dating platform, stay cautious, and remember, professional photos do not mean they are who they say they are. 

They ask for money as an emergency

A huge red flag, and as soon as this happens, you need to avoid this person. There can be so many excuses that you will hear, from their parents being sick in the hospital and requiring money for medical care. Another popular message will be: “I have broken my phone, and I will not be able to contact you until I get a new device. Can you help me buy a new phone?” This is very common with those you have met online through dating sites. It is undoubtedly the most popular catfishing technique, and thousands of dollars are sent to catfishers every year. We suggest you stay clear of such people and certainly never believe their lies about sending money to them.

These catfishers are preying on desperate people who need love and will do anything to get it. So try not to seem desperate online, as this will signal to a catfisher you are a potential victim. This technique of catfishing is often used by those searching online for a romantic relationship. So asking questions to those you are online with is a good way to avoid catfishing. 

Tips: How Not To Get Catfished

There are certain things you need to consider while online. As catfishing is a popular online activity nowadays, having caution is essential. We have created a list of tips that can help you avoid getting catfished:

  • Make sure you use reliable and trustworthy dating websites. It may take you slightly longer online, but doing your homework and choosing a solid site can prevent any issues later. 
  • It is a good idea to only contact those people online who have been verified. So looking for those profiles that have a verified badge by their name while you are on a dating platform is a wise idea. 
  • Do not trust anyone you are in contact with online straight away. They need to earn your trust. So over time, you can start to trust someone online, but never on first contact. 
  • If any of the telltale signs we have gone through earlier in this article are shown, avoid the person. So anytime someone refuses a video chat, it is a red flag. The more red flags you see, the more chances of them being a scammer. 
  • Use common sense at all times while online. Even if you are on a social media website, it is important to think twice about every communication you have online. People use different sexual identities to fool people all the time. 

So these are some tips for you to stay away from catfishes online. If you remember these tips, you are sure to have a safer online experience. 

romantic relationship

What Should You Do If You Are Getting Catfished?

If you are unfortunate and have found yourself getting catfished, there are things you should consider doing. Firstly if you have sent money to a catfish scammer, that is online fraud. You should contact the police, and in some cases, they can track your money, and you may get it back. You always want to block the catfisher from your social media accounts and never contact them again. You can also report the person to the website you are using. This can help save others from being scammed too. There are scam tracker websites out there that you can use to report your incident. The more information for others, the better. You do not want cod active scammers. 


As you can see, catfishing is popular and common nowadays online. But there are ways to combat these scammers. Being vigilant and using common sense can save you from a scam from a catfish. Using the right platforms can save you lots of money and less hassle too. Hopefully, this article has enlightened you on catfishing and how this scam works. Dating online is a fantastic experience. You should never be scared to use these websites. Be careful and use caution, just as you do as you cross the road. Never walk across the road with your eyes closed.