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Chatting With Strangers: Dangerous Catfishing.

Urban Dictionary:

A catfish is someone who pretends to be someone they’re not using Facebook or other social media to create false identities, particularly to pursue deceptive online romances.


If you’ve been on social media for more than a few months, the odds are very high that you’ve been catfished or have heard the horror stories of its victims.  From the above Urban Dictionary, you can determine this to  mean that someone you’ve been chatting with is not who they state they are.  (For the purposes of this article, we will not extend the meaning of catfish to online stalkers such as exes trying to check up on former wives, husbands, etc. or people experimenting with a more fluid profile of themselves to maintain a degree of separation from their personal and work lives.)

The reasons people catfish are many and varied but in social media venues, this con game is mostly used in romantic pursuit via a fake identity.

How To Spot A Catfisher:

1. Caginess about life details: Real name, age, location, field of employment, etc. (Citing security reasons is one thing; catfishers act as if they are with the Secret Service about this information and then try to turn the tables around by asking you for your info so that “they can trust you”.)

2. Has few photos of himself. (There’s only so many pics of a regular guy that a catfisher can rip off and pretending to be a Charlie Sheen look-a-like with CS’ pics is so 2009.)

3. The few photos that he has posted aren’t usually of him involved in real time activities with the same people. (E.g., No family pics.)

4. The identities are relatively new. “I just joined Facebook.” (Really? Where have you been in the past decade??)

5. Few, if any, interactions, with others on his timeline. “I don’t let people post to my timeline anymore since I ran into this nut who blew up my page.”  (Most real people do not completely limit posts on their timelines as it defeats the purpose of being on social media – to interact with others.)

6. His webcam is always broken.

How Does A Catfisher Operate:

If somehow a catfisher gets past his target’s guard and it’s time to meet in real life and he has been using a fake picture, he will suddenly disappear off the face of the virtual earth..

But now, having gathered all of this personal information from you (your likes, tastes, aspirations, etc.), he reappears (unbeknownst to you) as a different person.  His profile pic will either be very grainy, of other poor quality or  of animals or other non-human representations  – anything but a clear, current pic of himself.   This new stranger will apply your personal knowledge in your chats and appear to be in synch with you on many subjects.  Despite the age-old adage, “Opposites attract”, we are actually more attracted to those with whom we have things in common. You begin to believe that you have met someone who “gets” you.

A connection has formed.

Why Do People Fall For Catfishers:

From Buzzfeed:

Our Leah Palmer piece reported how a man left his girlfriend for a women who didn’t exist. A popular response in the comments underneath was, “How didn’t he know?”

But there are real reasons why we choose to see what we wantto see when it comes to meeting people online.

“If someone presents to us an intact, detailed identity, we immediately trust it,” says Short. “That’s because if we recognise just the outline of the individual – online or in the real world – we assume that that is real, with no verification. So identity equals trust, even if it’s not real. If someone looks like a person, we think they are a person.”

She explains that it got a lot to do with instinct: “It’s partially an evolutionary default. We’re social creatures, that’s just what we do: We see a pattern that looks like an individual and we think it must be a real person.”

Unconscious social cues tell us what we want to know about someone depending on what we want, says Short. So if we’re looking for a friend, colleague, or a lover, we’re predisposed to find people who fit the bill.

Even if there are details missing or there’s something suspicious – for example, someone’s webcam is always broken, or their career seems sketchy – human brains are happy to fill in the blanks.

“Just as we stereotype people in the physical world and immediately make judgments, I think the same thing is happening online,” Short says. “We look at profiles and fill in the gaps – you do the dot-to-dot and make all sorts of assumptions about who this person is.

“This is happening very, very fast and we’re not switched on to the fact that verification is very poor [online]. In the physical world, people lie but at least you know it’s them in front of you. You just don’t know that in an online relationship.”

17 Of The Most Insane Catfish Stories That Will Make You Cringe

Relatedly, in our next Bulletin,  we will cover How To Handle An Online Stalker.

BNI Operatives: Situationally aware.

As always, stay safe.

Interviewing Witnesses By Personality Type: Part II: The Empath.


(Continuing the series)

Last week, we stated:

“Our obvious objective in interviewing witnesses is to obtain a statement.  To that end, a successful interview is often based on the investigator’s approach and the better she can assess the subject’s personality, the more effective the interview. Fortunately, most people are cooperative, fairly truthful and possess a normal personality.  There have been quite a number of times, however, when we’ve had to extract information from people whose base nature or personality has been overwhelmingly outside of the normal range.

With these type subjects, it’s the investigator’s people skills that determine whether she will prevail.”

In our multiple-part series, Part II, focused on interviewing an empathic witness.

Definition of an Empathic Personality: (The Mind Unleashed.org):

  • Feeling others emotions and taking them on as your own

  • Sensitive to violence, cruelty or tragedy

  • Creative

  • Addictive personality

  • Loves to daydream

Description of a Empathic Personality: (from Psychology Today):

“Empaths are highly sensitive and supportive. They are finely tuned instruments when it comes to emotions and tend to feel everything, sometimes to an extreme.”

Empaths unwillingly, unwittingly absorb, intuit and feel other people’s emotions — from joy to misery.”

Armed with the above knowledge, a field investigator, and having determined that the witness has an empathic personality, the best approaches to elicit a strong and credible statement are:

  1. The empath, prone to daydreaming, needs to be kept on track by sticking to the facts as points of reference. Empathic witnesses can keenly recall many details at once, overloading their sensitive natures.  It may take more time, and without coloring their recall, let the empath tell the story their way but keep them on track with facts.  I.e., keep them on a timeline track.  “The accident occurred at 12:30 p.m.  How long after the accident  did the police arrive?”  rather than “At what time did police show up at the accident scene?”
  2. Don’t lead (you can direct) an empath as they tend towards creativity.  “In which hand was the def. driver holding the cell phone?” is very different from the correct “Was the def. driver on her cell phone before or during the accident?”  The former may get the statement, “In her right hand.” which at trial may be expanded to, “In her right hand, after she pulled it out of her purse to call 911 after the accident.”
  3. Allow for emotional outbreaks.  An empath is more sensitive than normal and may process the pain and shock of the actual victim during recall.  Don;t sit there like a cold fish or rush her along.  While maintaining to the above suggestion to keep an empath on track by time reference points, an investigator is often surprised by the deluge of facts retained by empaths.  They are able to place themselves in the victim’s place at time/place of occurrence and observe the event through that prism.  Follow the facts through the emotions.

In the next Bulletin in this series, we will cover, “The A-Type”.  How to interview an alpha type who may be uncooperative.

BNI Operatives: Situationally aware.

As always, stay safe.

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