Here in Texas, it’s hard to say which we love more: fishing or eating catfish. But there’s another kind of catfishing that’s growing in popularity: faking an online identity to scam victims for money, romance or physical harm.
These types of online relationships can last for months or even years, and despite warnings from the FTC, NFL victim Manti Te’o and an MTV reality show called “Catfish,” the number of catfishing victims increased by 50% in 2018 compared to three years ago, according to a study from SocialCatfish.com using data from the FBI.
And while we may be known for our love of fishing and eating catfish, one thing Texans are not known for is our gullibility. Nonetheless, Texas ranked No. 2 in the nation for the number of catfish victims in each state last year, according to the study.
The 10 states with the most victims? California (2,105), Texas (1,238), Florida (1,191), New York (782), Pennsylvania (577), Washington (493), Virginia (480), Michigan (461), Illinois (463), North Carolina (432).
The 10 states with the fewest victims? Vermont (25), South Dakota (31), Wyoming (33), North Dakota (35), D.C. (36), Montana (42), Delaware (48), Rhode Island (51), Hawaii (59) and New Hampshire (68).
Of the U.S. territories, Puerto Rico had the most with 49 victims and American Samoa had the fewest, reporting zero cases.
When most of us receive a Facebook friend request from a handsome, widowed doctor with a military background and photos of his mansion and exotic cars but who has exactly zero mutual friends with us, we are astute enough to deny the imposter’s request. Same for the guys who are bombarded with friend requests from voluptuous women who look like models yet claim to be lonely. You’d think it wouldn’t be that hard to figure out, but apparently, for a large number of Texans, it is.
Whether you need it or a less internet-savvy friend could use it, here are “Five Signs You Are Being Catfished,” as provided by SocialCatfish.com:
■ If they ask for money: This may sound so obvious, but if the online friend or romantic interest whom you have never met asks you to send money or provide your bank information, you are being catfished.
■ If they can’t meet in person: If the person strings you along without meeting in person. They may even eventually agree to a day or time but have an “emergency” that day such as a canceled flight or a medical issue.
■ If they are stationed overseas: If they claim to be stationed overseas or working on an oil rig as an excuse for not meeting.
■ If they can’t video chat: If the person refuses to video chat ever.
■ If they seem too good to be true: Some people who catfish feel bad about themselves and take on the online persona of a model or successful businessperson and the like.
To avoid becoming a victim, thoroughly fact-check and verify online identities using Google and SocialCatfish.com before meeting in person or providing any information about yourself.
Your real friends are posting enough fake stuff about their own lives anyway. After all, Facebook is more of a highlight reel than an actual glimpse at most folks’ warts-and-all existence. Let that be enough to entertain you rather than falling hook, line and sinker for yet another online catfish.