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Online friends: Don’t be catfished

by: admin - 17 May 2018

Ever been catfished? So “catfish” is the term used to refer to someone who pretends to be someone else, especially on the internet. A catfish use fake pictures to disguise who they truly are and recreate or impersonate an identity.

The term catfish comes from a television and documentary about the topic. In 2012, MTV adapted filmmakers Yaniv “Nev” Schulman and Max Joseph’s documentary into a TV show called, Catfish: The TV Show. Each gripping episode shows how Nev and Max help people in online relationships around America come face to face. An episode never ends without a surprise or shocking revelation as one partner discovers the truth about the other partner, who is usually a catfish.

Catfishing is not just an American phenomenon. A few South Africans have also been responsible for catfishing. Retired US citizen Michael Morgan was a victim . In March, he flew all the way from USA to Cape Town hoping to marry Caryl Jones, a nurse he met on the internet.

Speaking to TimesLive, he spoke about how he arrived at Cape Town International Airport to meet the nurse he had fallen in love with after a three-month-long online “relationship”. But it turned out that there was no Caryl Jones and there was no one to meet him at the airport.  

According to the catfish victim Michael Morgan, there are a number of ways that you can avoid being catfished.

“If they aren’t willing to talk to you (using an) original email address and try to direct you to a different address‚ it’s probably the first red flag‚” said Morgan.

Don’t be afraid to fact check and Google the person you are chatting to.  Google their name and Reverse Image search their profile picture to make sure that you’re talking to the right person.

In the case where you may suspect an account is fake or even if you are being impersonated by a fake account, Facebook will remove it but it is our responsibility to bring it to Facebook’s attention.

Simply go to the profile of the fake account and below the cover photo click the three dotted icon and select Report. Follow the on-screen instructions to file a report about the fake profile.

If you don’t have a Facebook account and want to report someone that’s pretending to be you or someone you know, you can fill out this form.

It is possible to make online friends – here are some helpful ways to make sure you are making online friends safely:

  • Check for mutual friends
  • Ask mutual friends to verify the potential friend’s authenticity
  • Get familiar with each other online
  • Trust your gut and beware of shady questions and requests
  • If you do choose to meet in real life, make sure it is a public space that you are familiar with.