How to Tell if You’re Being Catfished

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Online romance isn’t uncommon. There are over 44 million people using online dating services like dating apps, social media sites, and dating sites in 2022.¹ Unfortunately, not everyone online is how they appear. The gorgeous online friend you’ve been talking to may be complete fiction.

You don’t need Nev Schulman and the Catfish team or a private investigator to sniff out a fake identity. Though none of these things is a 100% guarantee that the person is a catfish, here are some red flags that can signal you’re being catfished.

How to tell if you’re being catfished

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1. They won’t facetime

Catfishers won't facetime or will hide their face.

The easiest way to tell if you’re talking to the person you think you’re talking to is by, well, looking at them. Catfishers know that the best way to keep their secret identity is to keep their real face hidden. If they won’t video chat and make some excuse like their camera is broken, run.

Watch out for darkness

Sometimes, these con artists will facetime but will hide their face by only videoing in a dark room.

2. They won’t talk on the phone


Not talking on the phone is a big red flag. What are they trying to hide? Why don’t they want to talk? Of course, they may just hate talking on the phone, but still, be wary.

3. They ask for money


Asking for money is a huge red flag. Even if they don’t come right out and ask you for money, be wary of anyone that consistently talks about their poor financial situation. They could be hinting around, trying to get you to offer up some cash.

4. Their life story keeps changing


Did they say their mother died years ago? And then they mentioned talking to her just the other day? Inconsistencies in stories are a common sign of a potential catfish. As Judge Judy often says, it's easy to keep the facts straight when you’re telling the truth.

5. They won’t meet you in real life


Just like with a video call, refusing to show their face in person is a huge red flag. Sure, sometimes a person won’t meet because they have social anxiety or they’re worried for their own safety. If they plan to meet with you and then cancel repeatedly, though, it’s probably best to assume they’re catfishing and move on.

6. They’re using someone else’s photos


This one can be tricky, but checking photos isn’t too hard. All you need to do is a reverse image search. Some free reverse image search tools are Google Image Search, and TinyEye.

Just upload their profile picture, and the site will check if the image is posted elsewhere online. Look for social media accounts with the picture and a different name. If who you’re talking to is a real person, any accounts that pop up with the image should match the information they give you. This doesn’t guarantee they are real, but along with the other tips here, it can help you verify their identity.

7. They’re out of your league


We’re not saying anything is wrong with you. You’re great and you will find an awesome romantic relationship. But if someone claiming to be a supermodel, movie star, rapper, or other famous person sends you a DM, most likely they’re a catfish. 100%. Don’t be a victim of a catfishing scam.


Someone who pretends to be someone else online using a fake profile. Typically, they use fake photos and names.

There are a lot of reasons. Sometimes people do it just to be cruel, but often they use it as an escape from their real lives. Scammers will also use catfishing to get nice people to send them money or to steal personal information.

Simply by realizing they’re a catfish (using our tips above, of course). Once you’ve made the discovery, block them on all social media and be wary that they may make new accounts under new names to lure you back in.

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  1. S. Dixon, Statista, “Online dating in the United States - Statistics & Facts,” February 8, 2022. Accessed August 18, 2022.
Alina Bradford
Written by
Alina Bradford
Alina is a safety and security expert that has contributed her insights to CNET, CBS, Digital Trends, MTV, Top Ten Reviews, and many others. Her goal is to make safety and security gadgets less mystifying one article at a time. In the early 2000s, Alina worked as a volunteer firefighter, earning her first responder certification and paving the way to her current career. Her activities aren’t nearly as dangerous today. Her hobbies include fixing up her 100-year-old house, doing artsy stuff, and going to the lake with her family.

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