Red Flags That Mean You May Be Getting Catfished

When it comes to online dating, you never really know what you're going to get. Will you be ghosted after a couple weeks of chatting? Will you find yourself in a never-ending talking stage? Or will you go out once then find yourself love bombed? Honestly, it could go in any direction.


However, of all the dating trends that have come up with online dating, the one that might be the worst is catfishing. Catfishing is when someone sets up a fake dating profile to deceptively lure someone into their clutches. Yes, it's as sinister as it sounds. But why would someone want to spend their time catfishing someone?

"Catfishing has its roots in dishonesty, and people are dishonest for many reasons," board-certified psychiatrist and wellness expert Judith Joseph tells Popsugar. "At the most innocent end of the spectrum people are dishonest because they are afraid, anxious of being rejected, or because they are insecure. At the most insidious end of the spectrum, there are people with antisocial personality disorder. These individuals are commonly labeled as sociopathic, and they tend to lie and con others for money and or pleasure." Yikes.


The problem with being catfished is that if the person behind the curtain is really good at it, they can swindle someone out of money or other things that can ultimately be life-ruining — think The Tinder Swindler. So, before you decide to give that "perfect" person, whom you've never met in real life, your credit card number, get yourself acquainted with these red flags first.

There's no consistency in what they tell you

Liars, even very good ones, can struggle to keep their stories straight. When people are building a character that isn't themselves and possibly creating multiple characters that are meant to deceive more than one person, it's hard to maintain consistency — unless they've gone to great lengths to create an Excel spreadsheet or something similar.


According to data collected by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, 41% of catfishers do it because they're lonely and two-thirds catfish because they have a desire to escape their own reality — hence the creation of a false persona.

As research has found, people who lie will repeat the same story over and over again, whereas those who are telling the truth will reconstruct what they know to be true (via Psychology Today). Repeating can only work to a degree because things can fall through the cracks or get embellished with time. Especially if the liar is trying to keep lots of stories on track.

Their photos are all professional looking

Sure, a lot of people want to find someone who looks like Timothée Chalamet or Margot Robbie, but the problem is most people don't look like Timothée or Margot, and if they did, they wouldn't be on Tinder — they'd be on Raya. So, if their photos look model-esque or every photo is a professional looking one that's probably been plucked from Getty or Shutterstock, then something is up.


"Any profile with professional-grade photos, like headshots or comp cards, should raise your suspicion," film and television producer of the MTV reality show "Catfish," Bernard Parham tells Teen Vogue. "Regular folks tend to use candids taken by their friends and family on their profiles."

Another red flag is if they can't send you a selfie at a moment's notice. We're currently knee-deep in selfie culture in which everyone is on the selfie bandwagon — just look at Instagram — so if someone can't give you a selfie while you're texting, then that should raise an eyebrow.

Their reasons to avoid meeting are over-the-top

Not only do they bail every time you're supposed to meet up, but their reasons for not being able to meet up are, well, a little bit much. Someone who catfishes just can't say something came up or they're busy. Instead, it has to be grandiose enough to invoke sympathy from their prey so they can set up their kill, so to speak. "Dramatic or often cases of illness or car accidents — things that would immediately elicit your sympathy," host of MTV's "Catfish" Nev Schulman told Larry King.


While this isn't to say that some people don't have bad luck in which almost everything in their life is pretty much a tragedy, if it's been weeks or months since you first started chatting and every time you're supposed to get together something dramatic comes up in their life, it has to make you wonder ... is it shyness or something more devious? Fun fact: the average driver will get into a car accident once every 17.9 years ... but they've said they've been in four car accidents, all obviously not deadly, in the past two months? No way. 

They don't want ever want to FaceTime

After texting for a while, some people want to move to the next step: FaceTime. In fact, video dating apps are more popular than ever thanks to the pandemic. (Remember how people were having online dates back in 2020 when the world was on lockdown?) But this can create a big problem for someone who's catfishing. Because they need to keep the fact that they are who they say they are even though they aren't that person, the catfisher will avoid all modes of video chatting and have a plethora of excuses as to why. No one has larangitis that much, FYI.


"Many catfish tell others they prefer to speak over text, email, or phone calls in order to keep up the façade," psychotherapist Brooke Schwartz tells Elite Daily. Some might skip the phone calls, especially if their age or gender doesn't align with the one they've falsely presented.

They have no digital footprint

It's 2022, so everyone, even those who aren't in the public eye, have some sort of digital footprint. Even your grandmother, who's maybe never had a social media account, will have at least something online — for example, places she's lived, her immediate family, or even her phone number. Trying to exist in this world without having proof of your existence online is pretty darn impossible. Because of this fact, if the person you're messaging only seems to exist in the palm of your hand, you should inquire about why there's no proof of them anyplace else. Of course, you're likely to get one hell of a story as to why.


"Not being able to verify any of the info they give you is a grand red flag," matchmaker and CEO of Exclusive Matchmaking Susan Trombetti tells Bustle.

If they try to tell you that they're in the Witness Protection Program, they're not. Only 19,000 people have been put into hiding by the government since the program was started in 1970, per Mental Floss. A statistic that an amateur catfisher isn't likely to know. 

They ask you for sensitive information

Although there are those who catfish because they're shy or lonely, for the more sociopathic ones, it's about trying to get something from you. There have been cases of catfishing where people have requested — and actually received — sensitive information like nudes, bank account information, or other personal details from the person they're catfishing. Sometimes, it's strictly about trying to get money out of the person they're catfishing because, let's be honest, blackmail involves a lot of work.


"[Catfishers] will gain trust and use that goodwill to commit fraud by asking for money for something such as a plane ticket or visa to be together, a life crisis or medical bills," associate at law firm Edmonds Marshall McMahon Mai Holdom tells Cosmopolitan. "They might even pretend to work in the military, on an oil rig or as a doctor with an international charity — but you will usually never meet them."

But the biggest red flag of all that you're being catfished? You feel it in your gut. Even if you don't want to believe this gorgeous, perfect person is taking you for a ride, you still know it deep in your bones. So go with your gut and cut ties immediately. No one got anywhere by being catfished, except on MTV or severely in debt — neither of which is a good thing.