Beware the Catfish: Tips to Successful Online Dating

Online dating websites are among the most visited on the Internet. Dating sites attract millions of people looking for companionship, intimacy, love and passion. A recent study (funded by eHarmony, it should be noted) found that of more than 19,000 people who were married between 2005 and 2012, 35 percent met on the Internet. The study also found that couples who met online were less likely to divorce and experienced higher levels of marital satisfaction.

Why not look for your soul mate online? Most single men and women online are legitimate and sincere in their quest for love. Nonetheless, it’s important to be aware of the latest type of digital fraud: catfishing.


Catfishing involves an individual using a false identity on a dating site or in a chat room with the intention of establishing romantic relationships under a fake persona or false identity.

Catfishers generally exhibit recognizable behavior patterns. Most catfishers:

  • Keep their catch “hooked” with sweet promises of a long and happy life together within days of meeting online
  • Advance rapidly from emails to texting and talking on the phone
  • Eagerly make plans to meet, only to cancel at the last minute due to unexpected issues, such as a death in the family or car trouble
  • Shower the other person with love and attention 24/7

The catfisher employs these actions for money or to acquire personal information to commit identity theft and other forms of fraud. When this deceptive bottom-feeder thinks the other person is emotionally hooked, he or she will ask for cash, usually in the form of a money order, Western Union transfer or PayPal transaction. The catfisher asks for a “loan” by tugging at the heartstrings of the victim. He or she will talk about a sick mother who needs an operation or rent that is overdue and imminent eviction.

Catfishing schemes end when the victim financially can’t supply the funds or won’t because they suspect odd behavior. The “relationship” terminates when the catfisher throws the victim back into online dating unceremoniously and without any parting words.

Avoid the Catfish

One way to avoid a catfish is to use a webcam when meeting someone online, according to Life Lock. Take advantage of a video chat program like Skype that enables you to see prospective mates as they are talking to you. Take note of their body language, the way they dress and other idiosyncrasies will help you gain insight into who this person really is.

Above all, listen to your intuition when communicating with a potential relationship partner online. That “gut feeling” can be telling you the truth, something your emotional side is trying to mask or deny.

Online Dating Pitfalls

Lastly, while looking for love in cyberspace:

  • Don’t create ridiculously high standards or have unrealistic expectations with each new date
  • Be wary of desensitization to online dating. Some people grow accustomed to the anonymity it affords, which can lead to insensitive and selfish behavior
  • Chin up. Don’t lose your sense of self-worth or grow bitter due to of repeated rejections
  • Remember, you are no one’s emotional punching bag. Demand (and treat others with) respect always.


This guest post was provided by Alexandra Jones, a Spinning instructor and grad student in Houston.