Between social media and all the dating apps, it’s so easy to make friendships and start relationships online. But the problem with building a relationship on the internet is that they don’t always reflect the truth. Social media can be a great tool for meeting people, but it shouldn’t be the basis of your relationship. I’m a regular viewer of Catfish: The TV Show, and I’m here to break down the methods they use to spot and catch a common catfisher. 

First, if you aren’t familiar with the term “catfish,” it’s defined as “a person who sets up a false personal profile on a social networking site for fraudulent or deceptive purposes.” This is the premise of the MTV show, Catfish: The TV Show. The host of the show was once catfished by a woman he was romantically interested in, and he made a documentary about it, sparking lots of feedback from thousands of people who had the same online experience. He created this TV show to help others find out if they’re being catfished by their online boyfriend or girlfriend. 

Common Patterns of a Catfish

In many episodes, the people doing the catfishing share the same patterns and excuses, making it obvious that they’re hiding something. Here are some things to look out for if you want to avoid being the victim of catfishing.

You Never Talk on the Phone 

If your entire relationship is through text or online messaging, it’s likely that the person is lying about who they are. Nev Schulman, a host of Catfish, says if they won’t talk on the phone, it’s usually because they’re not the gender they claim to be or they’re the voice of someone you might recognize. 

They Won’t Facetime or Skype

“My phone camera is broken” is a common excuse that catfishers use to avoid getting on Facetime. Most people have the technical ability to get on a video call with you. Facetime, Skype, Zoom, social media are all tools that can be used to video chat. If you’ve been chatting online for a decent period of time, and they won’t Facetime you, then you should take this as a huge red flag. 

Their Social Media Account Is Scarce and Has Few Followers 

A catfish will create fake profiles to talk to people, so it’s likely that their account doesn’t have much on it and that they don’t have many followers or friends. Sometimes they will randomly follow people to grow their account, but you can still look and see if their followers are from the same area as them or if they seem a little too random.

You’ve Only Seen a Couple of Pictures of Them 

If you’re in a relationship with someone, it’s normal to exchange pictures of you and your life in conversation. Especially if you haven’t met in person, it’s nice to see pictures. But if you only see one or two pictures of someone after talking for a long time, and the pictures they send are the ones on their profile, then they probably aren’t the person in the picture. They’re most likely stealing pictures of someone else on the internet. 

Refusing to video chat or flaking on in-person meetups are signs they’re not who they say they are.

They’re Flakey When You’re Supposed To Meet 

Maybe you’ve been talking for a while, and you’re ready to meet in person. If you make plans to see someone and they don’t show up, they could be a catfish. Especially if this has happened more than once. They typically will use excuses like they got in an accident, had a family emergency, or had to work. It sounds extreme, but these are common excuses. 

They Ask for Money

It’s safe to say you should absolutely not send someone money until you’ve at least met them in person and have a solid relationship. There are people who catfish for a living. They will start an online relationship with several people and take money from vulnerable and caring people. 

Tricks To Catch a Catfish

If you’ve fallen for some of these red flags, maybe it’s time to confirm your suspicions. There are a few tricks you can do online to find out if you’re being catfished. Not all of them are foolproof, but they can lead you in the right direction and help you confront your online relationship with evidence that they’re lying to you. 

Reverse Image Search

There are websites you can use to find the original source of a picture. If they’re using someone else’s pictures, this is a way to find out. You upload a picture they’ve sent you, and if the picture is from a social media account with a large following or is floating around the internet, then the image search engine will link it back to that source. On the show Catfish, people often use pictures from an influencer’s account, porn websites, or pictures from people they know and think are attractive. 

Reverse Phone Number Lookup

You can look up phone numbers on several different websites, but most of them have a paywall. However, it might be worth the small amount of money if you really want to know who you’ve been talking to. 

This can be an effective tool, but keep in mind it’s not always reliable since some numbers are registered under the name of the person on the account (i.e. your boyfriend’s mom owns the plan, and her name shows up instead of your boyfriend who is under her phone plan). And if the number traces back to what looks like a landline, it usually means the person you’re texting is using a text app where they can text under a fake number. This can still be useful information for you. 

Look Them Up on All Social Media Platforms

A simple thing that people ignore when meeting strangers online is assuming they don’t use other social media platforms. Most people have Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, etc. Look your person of interest up on all platforms to see if they’re being truthful with you about the things they tell you. You can also get more information about them this way. 

Use Cash App To Verify Their Name

This trick is really outside the box, but it can sometimes be very useful. Many people use Cash App to transfer or receive money. When you create an account, it’s linked to your phone number and name. So type in the number you contact the person with on Cash App, and see if their number is linked to the same or different name as what they’re telling you. If their number shows up with a different name, it could be that they’re lying about who they are. 

If the number traces back to a landline, the person could be using a text app and a fake number. 

Look at Who They Interact with on Social Media

After you’ve creeped a bit on their social media, pay attention to the people who comment or regularly interact with them. These people may know who they are or might also be communicating online with them. On the show Catfish, they contact these connections and are able to get more information on the person to see if they’re real and if what they say is true. 


I would say this is a last-resort option. And if you have to take these measures to find someone, then maybe it’s not worth continuing the relationship. But if you’re determined to find out what area someone lives in, or want to verify that they aren’t lying, then you can create a link using the website Grabify and send it to your potential catfisher. If they click the link, it will show you their city location. 

Give Them an Ultimatum 

This is typically the final step on the show, where they message the potential catfish and tell them that they can either meet them in person or cut all ties with them. If someone thinks they can keep feeding you lies and you will allow it and continue interacting with them, they have no need to meet you in person. But if they actually care about the relationship, it’s worth exposing themselves in hopes that they can continue the relationship. 

Take Safety Measures

Don’t meet up with someone you met online unless you’re taking all precautions to be safe. There have been way too many abductions, rapes, and murders that happen when people meet a stranger in a private place, and they never make it home. People can be whoever they want to be online, so don’t be quick to believe everything someone tells you. It can always end up being a trap, and you don’t want to be the victim of a crime. It might sound like something that rarely ever happens, but it does happen, and the more vulnerable and naive you are, the more likely it can happen to you. 

If you decide to meet someone in person for the first time, take a friend with you and meet in a public place during the day. Meet with someone a few times before going somewhere private with them. Meet their friends, family, and people they spend their time with to make sure they are who they claim to be. 

Closing Thoughts 

Social media can be a great place to network and make new friends, but it can be risky starting a relationship online. Plenty of couples have done it, but it takes both people being honest and committed for it to be successful. The TV show Catfish is the perfect example that catfishing is happening to people all around the world – regularly. Don’t be naive and think someone you’ve never met wouldn’t lie to you. Hold to your standards and make them meet you in person before investing too much in someone online. Make sure you take all safety precautions and have friends and family back you up. Hopefully these tricks and tips can point you in the right direction with your online relationship!

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