June 25 is National Catfish Day. “Catfishing” doesn’t only mean going down to the river with a fishing pole. Better Business Bureau (BBB) serving Central, Coastal, Southwest Texas and the Permian Basin wants to warn you that catfishing can also be a technique commonly used by dating scammers. 

Catfishing is when someone assumes another person’s identity and creates a fake online profile to engage in an online relationship. The term has made its presence in national news and also in a television documentary.

People looking for love tend to let their guard down. Unfortunately, there are scammers out there who count on that. The catfish scammer is often looking to take advantage of your personal information or gain financial support. In 2013, the Federal Trade Commission processed 9,643 romance scam complaints. Proof that these scam artists put a lot of time and effort into building a fake persona and relationship with their victim. If you’re looking for the love of your life online, it’s in your best interest to be cautious.

This type of deception happens not only with online dating sites, but on social media sites as well. These scammers will go to great lengths to create a believable story. They will use stolen photos and information to make the victim believe they are who they say they are.

When considering dating online, BBB recommends you:

  • Select with integrity. If choosing to use an online dating site, request the guidelines the company follows in screening its applicants. For example, does the service conduct a criminal background check for each applicant?
  • Take the time to research individuals. If any red flags are raised in your communication with someone, search his or her name through online search engines and on social media sites. Copy and paste portions of your emails into search engines to see if they have been associated with scams.
  • Never wire money. Often times, once scammers gain your trust, they will share a story of family difficulty or need for financial help. Never wire money to someone you have not met. It is difficult to get money back from someone who may be misrepresenting themselves once it has been sent through a wire service.
  • Use caution of those who wish to leave the dating site immediately. Many times scammers will attempt to lure you off the dating site to continue communication using personal email accounts.
  • Read the signs. Be cautious of individuals who claim to have fallen instantly in love, or to be from the U.S. and traveling/working overseas. Beware of those who prey on your emotions by claiming to be trapped in a foreign country or involved in an emergency, and needing you to wire them money. This is a red flag for a “catfishing” scam.
  • Meet in person. It is easier to spot a fraud over the phone than online. If it’s possible, ask to meet in person, maybe to a group outing and always in a safe, public place. If the individual offers various excuses or refuses, this may be a sign they are not who they say they are.