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How to spot a catfish

Catfishing is when someone sets up a fake online profile to trick people who are looking for love, usually to get money out of them. If you're online dating, read these tips so you know how to spot a catfish.

6 signs someone might be a catfish

  1. You've searched their name on the internet but they don't seem to exist. Or they do, but the photos don't match the photos on their dating profile.
  2. They're asking for money early into your relationship. They might be saying it's to come and visit you.
  3. They're telling you they love you, but you've only been talking for a couple of days or weeks.
  4. They're avoiding face-to-face contact, either meeting up or video chats.
  5. They're just a little bit too perfect.
  6. Their stories sometimes conflict with each other, or don't quite add up.

Do you think you've been catfished?

If you've been scammed out of your money by someone who wasn't who they said they were, there is help and support available.


Are they on social media?

If you've met someone online, it's a good idea to make sure they are who they say they are.

One way to do this is to look them up on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, or to search their name in a search engine.

Of course not everyone has social media, but if someone's on a dating app or website, they're more likely to have some other form of social media.

If you find them online, look out for:

  • Number of photos – It's normal for people to have more than just one photo of themselves.
  • Quality of photos – Do they have a few photos, but they all look like they've been taken by a professional photographer? Catfish often steal photos from the internet, and they often choose professional-looking shots.

Be wary of people you don't know sending you messages through your social media accounts. They might be flirty to try and trick you, so it's best to stick to meeting people online through dating websites.


Are they asking you for money?

If you've been chatting away to someone for a while and everything seems great, but then they ask you for money, think about it for a while before you send them any.

Is it very early in your relationship? Is it appropriate for them to be asking someone they've only known for a short time (and may never have met in real life) for money?

It's common for catfish to ask you for money that appears to be for your benefit. For example, they want to come and visit you but they can't afford the plane ticket, so they ask you for the plane fare.

Another technique is to start by asking for a small amount of money, then gradually asking for more and more each time.

You may want to be generous, especially if you're in a new romantic relationship, but think about your best interests first.


Is the relationship moving quickly?

Relationships normally develop over weeks and months. If someone is telling you things like 'I love you' and 'you're the one' and 'I can't live without you' within a few days, this should set off alarm bells.


Have you spoken face to face?

Have you spoken to the person face to face? Even if they live in another country, there are lots of ways to meet them online now, like Skype and Facetime.

If they're avoiding showing you their face, this could be a sign that they're not who they say they are. Try to arrange a face-to-face chat early in the relationship.


Is it too good to be true?

Be honest with yourself. If the person you're chatting to tells you they love you in the first couple of days, and seems to have a really wild and interesting life with loads of stories to tell, could it be too good to be true?

People aren't perfect, so the person you just met online probably isn't either.


Do their stories add up?

Human nature is to believe other people, even when the facts are stacked against them.

But watch out for inconsistencies in people's stories, and if something doesn't make sense, ask about it.

Learn more about catfishing

The BBC's Panorama programme did an investigation into romance scams for a recent episode. It contains a lot of useful information that may help you to spot a catfish yourself.

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Last updated: Oct 02 2019

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