A ‘catfish’ is someone who is pretending to be someone else online. Technology has made it easier for people to catfish or impersonate people online and it isn’t always easy to spot the difference between a catfish and the real deal.

People catfish others online for a lot of different reasons – sometimes it’s to bully or humiliate a person, to try and get people to send nude images, to try and scam people into giving them money, or to try and get a person into trouble.

We’ve put together some tips for helping to spot a catfish online, as well as advice for if you have been catfished by someone.

Protecting yourself from being catfished

1. Be cautious when talking to someone new online:

Social media sites and other online platforms make it easy for people to pretend to be someone else online. If you are contacted or added as a friend by someone new online, make sure you take some time to determine that they are who they say they are before adding them as a friend or talking with them.

2. Look for warning signs:

Some warning signs that a profile might be fake include:

  • Blurry or low resolution profile photo.
  • The profile has been set up very recently.
  • The person has very few or no friends or contacts.
  • The profile has very few photos or other details.
  • The profile photo doesn’t show the whole of the person’s face.

3. Behaviour to look out for:

If you feel like someone’s behaviour seems a bit weird online – particularly if it’s someone who you’ve connected with recently online, it’s worth being cautious. Here are some examples of some warning signs that might suggest someone may not be who they say they are:

  • They are messaging you a lot.
  • The conversation is moving really fast.
  • They are pressuring you to share nudes or other personal information about yourself.
  • They are asking you for money.
  • They are asking you a lot of questions about yourself.

4. Ask to talk via video call:

If you’re concerned that someone may not be who they say they are online, considering asking them to talk via a video call. If they make up excuses as to why they can’t talk this could be a warning sign that they may be a catfish.

If you’re a young person you might want to think about doing this with a friend for support.

5. Do a reverse image search:

Google allows people to upload a photo into their reverse image search tool and it will show you all the other places that image can be found online. This can be a good way to check whether a profile photo has been taken from another location online.

6. Think before you share:

Before you share something personal with someone online, think carefully about the potential risks if that person is not who they say they are. Sometimes fake profiles will try and get you to share nudes or other intimate information about yourself in order to bully or humiliate you. Make sure you totally trust a person before you share anything online that you don’t want shared more widely.

What to do if you’ve been catfished:

Being catfished can be a difficult and upsetting experience. Netsafe can help give you advice and support if you’ve been catfished by someone online – text ‘Netsafe’ to 4282 to talk to someone from our team.

If they’ve shared nudes without your consent:

If someone has shared a nude or nearly nude image or video of you without your consent, there are things that you can do:

  • If it’s appropriate to do so, let friends and family know you’ve been catfished by someone online. Ask them to report any nude or bullying content to the platform (ie Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat etc) if they see it.
  • Screenshot the content if possible and make a record of the links to the page (the URLs).
  • Report the content to the platform it’s on to request the content is removed (e.g. Facebook, Snapchat, PornHub etc).
  • Report the profile or account of the person who shared the content to the platform (e.g. Facebook, Snapchat, PornHub etc).
  • Contact us to find out what other options are available to you – Text ‘Netsafe’ to 4282, call 0508 NETSAFE, email help@netsafe.org.nz or visit www.netsafe.org.nz/report

We can assist you in getting content removed from some places online and talk to you about the other options available to you – for example, taking the case to the Police. If someone is threatening to share nude images/videos of you or blackmailing you, we can also let you know what you can do about it. Our team talks to people in situations like this everyday, so we’re used to talking about it and can provide you all the information you need.

If they are bullying or humiliating you online:

  • If it’s appropriate to do so, let your friends and family know that you’ve been catfished by someone online. Ask them to report any bullying content to the platform (ie Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat etc) if they see it.
  • Screenshot the content if possible and make a record of the links to the page (the URLs).
  • Block or report the bully online. Most social networks have safety centres with tips on how to deal with bullying on their platforms so considering looking at these for advice.
  • Contact Netsafe for help and advice. You can text ‘Netsafe’ to 4282, make a report online, email us at help@netsafe.org.nz or give us a call on 0508 NETSAFE (0508 638 723).

If you’re worried for your immediate safety, call the Police on 111.

If someone is impersonating you online:

  • Let your friends and family know that you’ve been impersonated by someone online. Ask them to report the fake profile to the platform (ie Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat etc) if they see it.
  • Screenshot the profile if possible and make a record of the URL link to the fake profile.
  • Report the page as a fake profile to the platform that it’s on (ie Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat etc).
  • Contact Netsafe for help and advice. You can text ‘Netsafe’ to 4282, make a report online, email us at help@netsafe.org.nz or give us a call on 0508 NETSAFE (0508 638 723).

CONTACT NETSAFE

Need help or advice? Contact us.

  • Text ‘Netsafe’ to 4282
  • Email help@netsafe.org.nz
  • Call us toll free on 0508 NETSAFE (0508 638 723)
  • Online report form at netsafe.org.nz/report

Our helpline is open from 8am – 8pm Monday to Friday and 9am – 5pm on weekends.