Are you talking to someone online? Do you trust them? Could they be a catfisher, a scammer, a scalawag or a con?
How Monica Draper, a 55-year-old, Ontario-based graphic designer lost $100,000 is not unheard of. How could she fall in love with a notorious, online Lothario, who had an outstanding warrant out for his arrest? Monica accepts that her money is gone. But she is still amazed that the fellow she met on the dating website, Plenty of Fish, was able to so easily abscond with her money, as well as the life savings of at least a half-dozen other women. The truth is she was “catfished.”
A catfisher is the new name coined to describe a bottom-dwelling human who spends a great deal of time on the Internet in various locations like online dating sites, LinkedIn and Facebook, luring people into romances and then stealing their money. A catfisher uses fake pictures, bogus profiles and cunning manipulation, drawing their victims into a state of trust through infatuation. Often the victim has low self-esteem and insecurity with their image and when a person online appears to be interested in them, bingo, a match is made! The victim falls hard for this Romeo, who they deem out of their league. In truth, the seducer is faking it. And is running this con on other people, as well. In short, a catfisher is a scammer. The prevalence of online dating predators grows more copious every day.
According to research, 4,288,595 people per month use Match.com, and visit the site a total of 26,200,000 times a month. The total Match.com membership is 15 million people. The total eHarmony membership is 20 million lonely hearts.
Comparing that to the total number of single people in the United States, which is 54 million, it is not possible that half the single U.S. population has membership in an online dating site! Especially when the trade journal, Online Dating Magazine, estimates that there are more than 2,500 online dating services in the U.S., alone, with 1,000 new online dating services opening every year. Some estimates say there are 8,000 competitors worldwide. That means many people join three or more dating sites.
On the free dating sites, at least 10 percent of new accounts are from scammers, says Marketdata Enterprise, Inc. Interested in catfishing, anyone?
Dinner for Six, a matchmaking service in Denver, Colorado, says that 51 percent of online dating members are putting themselves out there as being single, when, in fact, they are in some kind of relationship. According to MSNBC, research shows that 11 percent of people using online dating services are married.
More than 53 percent of Americans fabricate parts, or all of their dating profile details, according to the Huffington Post. Some lies are so blatant, like weight or height, that their dates can spot the untruths in the first few seconds of meeting them. In fact, a third of those surveyed said falsified information is so prevalent, that it prevents them from going on a second date.
More than 40 percent of men try to swoon women by lying about their jobs, trying to make their careers sound more prestigious. It makes sense that every woman wants a guy with a great job, for example a guy in the entertainment industry is more interesting than someone selling tickets at the local movie theater. eHarmony mentions that a study found men who reported incomes higher than $250,000 received 156 percent more email than those declaring an income of $50,000. That’s 156 percent more gold-diggers! So guys, think twice about whether you want to post your personal income.
In 2011, the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center lodged 5,600 complaints from victims of “romance scams” or “catfishers.” The reporting victims lost over fifty million dollars. But it’s suspected that these numbers are much less than actual, as many people are too embarrassed to come forward.
In 2005 alone, 25 percent of rapists used online dating sites to find their victims. Let me repeat that: twenty-five percent of rapists used online dating sites to find their victims. Each year Internet predators commit more than 16,000 abductions, 100 murders and thousands of rapes, according to InternetPredatorStat.homestead.com.
I personally returned to online dating after ending a long-term relationship. With a profile depicting a self-supporting, intelligent woman, I was contacted by ten men, and nine of those contacts were scammers or catfishers. Nine out of ten! That is why I am writing this post — to make people aware of the dangers of online catfishers.
Next week I will outline some typical characteristics and warning signs of an online scammer and offer suggestions on how to protect yourself from catfishers.