It's not like the word "catfishing" isn't part of the vernacular.  The popular MTV Show "Catfishing" has been on the air for nearly a decade.  Everyone knows what "catfishing" means. It is defined as: "the process of luring someone into a relationship by means of a fictional online persona.

Tero Vesalainen
Tero Vesalainen
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The costs of "catfishing" can be very high.  People in isolated cities like San Angelo are particularly vulnerable.  It can sometimes be hard to meet someone who is right for us online.  The allure of out-of-towners and even people out of the state and country can be hard to deny.

Slava_Vladzimirskaya
Slava_Vladzimirskaya
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Even with all the attention that has been focused on this issue, a new report says that "catfishing" is still a major problem. A new study from the FTC found that romance scams have accounted for 1.3 BILLION in losses just in the last five years.

Texas is the #2 rated states with the most "catfishing" victims behind only California. People here in San Angelo have lost over 65 milliion dollars to romance scams with nearly 1800 victims statewide.  Local estimates put the toll here in San Angelo in the dozens.

MissTuni
MissTuni
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So, how can you be sure that the person you've struck up an online relationship with is who they portray themselves to be?  The FBI and FTC along with The San Angelo Police Department recommend you take these steps.

Teenage Girl Being Bullied By Text Message
Highwaystarz-Photography
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1) Be Careful what you are sharing on your social media feeds

Scammers analyze your interests, your hobbies, your favorite t.v. shows, basically, what makes you tick. They scan this kind of information in an attempt to formulate a romantic interest that can pull at your heart strings.

2) Analyze the social media profiles of every love interest online

Look closely at your internet love interest's profile.  If they are a scammer, they are probably pretty sophisticated at appearing like a normal person.  However, there are some warning signs.  If the profile is fairly new and only has a few followers.  That might be a sign something "catfishy" is going on.  Contact their real friends.  See if they are legit

Photo by Sergey Zolkin on Unsplash
Photo by Sergey Zolkin on Unsplash
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3)  Watch for Bad Grammar

Sometimes, you just fall in love with someone who was a "C" student in high school English. It doesn't mean they're a bad person. But, "catfishers", as a matter of personality, tend to use poor grammer.  This is especially true if they are from foreign countries and English is their second language.  They will make mistakes that a native speaker would not.

4) A reluctance to meet in person or even SNAPCHAT.

A catfisher will always have an excuse for not video chatting.  They will always make appointments to meet in person and then create grandiose excuses for why they can't, often at the last minute.  Even if you've invested months and in some cases years in this online relationship and you can say you've never video chatted or met, then it is time to start swiping again.

Photo by Martin Tupy on Unsplash
Photo by Martin Tupy on Unsplash
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Never share money, personal information, or explicit photos with someone you have not met in person.  You don't know how you're dealing with until you know who you're dealing with.

Photo: FBI dot Gov
Photo: FBI dot Gov
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If you suspect you're a victim, don't hesitate to reach out to San Angelo Police's Fraud unit or the FBI.  Chances are if you are being "catfished" by someone, then there may be many others who are also being "catfished" by them. Don't be ashamed to come forward.  We are all vulnerable when we care about someone.  There's nothing wrong with caring.  Just make sure that person is caring back.

 

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