Catfishing: Are you falling for it?

The news is filled with stories about people, famous and otherwise, getting caught in online dating scams. The phenomenon is so common that it now has a name: Catfishing. The term catfishing comes from the 2010 movie Catfish about a man who was lured into a relationship by a scammer who was using a fake social networking profile.

Catfishing is a kind of social engineering. It’s similar to messages that claim that your computer has a virus, that you’ve won a lottery, or that you can earn money for little or no effort on your part. All of these scams are designed to “hook” you with fear, vanity, and too-good-to-be-true offers. The cybercriminal in a catfishing scam might post fake pictures or send encouraging messages to entice you into a relationship, but the goal is the same as in other scams: The scammer wants to steal your personal information, your money, or both.

3 ways to help avoid catfishing

  • Always remember that people on the other end of online conversations might not be who they say they are. Treat all emails and social networking messages with caution when they come from someone you don’t know.
  • Never share your passwords, even with someone you trust. If you think your accounts have been compromised, change your passwords as soon as possible.
  • If you suspect that someone is catfishing you, report them.

For more general tips and advice on how to avoid scams, download our free 12-page booklet, Online Fraud: Your Guide to Prevention, Detection, and Recovery (PDF file, 2.33 MB), and browse our other resources on how to protect yourself online.

About the Author
Eve Blakemore

Group Manager, Trustworthy Computing

Eve Blakemore is a Group Manager for Trustworthy Computing who delivers consumer guidance around the latest trends in security and privacy. Eve joined Microsoft in 1998 and has worked in corporate and field roles with Microsoft Learning, US Public Sector, Read more »

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  1. Anonymous

    This morning I had three telephone calls from people identifying themselves as calling from Microsoft Technical Support, informing me that my computer was downloading malicious spyware and viruses and they would clean it for me. The first 2 I told there was nothing wrong with my computer and not to call again. I asked the third one for his telephone number and what he gave was for a wedding supply business in Washington state. I have had these calls before, but never so many in so short a time.

  2. Anonymous

    has the makings of a great country and western song.

  3. Anonymous

    When these scammers inform me that my PC is infected, I ask them to identify which operating system I am using as well as brand of computer, computer type ( laptop, tablet, or desktop) etc.

  4. Anonymous

    Bill–when these people call me about something—I listen to them and act like I am really interested.  Then, I ask them for their website URL and they go away.  This last week I had somebody all the way from Florida —1500 miles call me and tell me that they wanted to come and install an alarm system on my house!  As if I was stupid enough to fall for it!  They never stop!

  5. Anonymous

    Whenever I receive a call re fixing my computer I reply that they must have made a mistake as I do not have a computer. That is the end of the discussion and I do not hear from them for a while.

  6. Anonymous

    Well reading everyone blog i feel that i must b lucky because i told get no calls on my cell phone. . Well at least. I think i don't i mean i get those you-want- to-go-back-to-school?  They be wanting my info.  I'm hard of hearing and on those bad hearing when get those call i be answering some off the wall question? And they gotta repeat themself over and over to the point where they would just hang up. But i get a tons of scammer mails

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