How To Catch A Catfish

Jul 13, 2023

If you’re hoping this post will be a tutorial on how to get the biggest fish to take a picture of and use on your Mutual profile, we’re sorry to disappoint. (Besides, from the number of fish pictures we’ve seen, it seems y’all are doing just fine in the regular fishing department. 🎣) 

“Catfishing” is a term commonly used in today’s dating world, but it has nothing to do with actual fish. “According to the Oxford dictionary, it’s “the process of luring someone into a relationship by means of a fictional online persona.”

The term became English slang starting in 2010 when the documentary Catfish was released – the story of Nev Shulman, who was dating a woman named Megan, whom he had been “digitally dating” but had never met in person. He discovered that “Megan” was actually Angela – a married woman in her 40s. She had also created several other fake accounts of Angela’s family members to support the narrative she had created.

In the documentary, Angela’s husband Vince compares her to a mythical use for catfish found in fiction written by Henry Nevinson and Charles Marriott in 1913.

“They used to tank cod from Alaska all the way to China. They’d keep them in vats in the ship. By the time the codfish reached China, the flesh was mush and tasteless. So this guy came up with the idea that if you put these cods in these big vats, put some catfish in with them, and the catfish will keep the cod agile. And there are those people who are catfish in life. And they keep you on your toes. They keep you guessing; they keep you thinking; they keep you fresh.” 

– Vince Pierce, Catfish

Nev went on to create the MTV series “Catfish: The TV Show,” where they’ve “caught” hundreds of catfish in their net of lies. Catfishing is now a commonly used term in our day-to-day slang. 

What is Mutual doing to stop catfishing?

We’re determined to keep Mutual a place where you can date worry-free, which includes clearing catfish so that you can focus on all the “other fish in the sea.” 😉

We require all of our members to verify their profiles before they can start making matches. Our verification process requires them to choose from a selection of pre-approved poses and send us a selfie in that pose. The pictures must be sent using the camera in-app and can’t be uploaded, so there’s no option to upload someone else’s pictures. (Learn more about profile verification here.)

When we receive a report that someone is catfishing, we immediately remove the account from public view while we investigate. We then analyze their app usage behavior patterns for suspicious behavior, re-review their verification, and request that they send our team a valid government ID. We have found that catfishers rarely use their real name or birthdate. After investigation, we ban any suspected catfishers. If someone feels like they have been banned incorrectly, they can appeal. Those appeals are read carefully by Mutual’s leadership team.

Why do people catfish?

There are many reasons why people catfish, and no two stories or reasons are exactly the same. In the example of Angela, she was disillusioned and bored with her life as a housewife. She created this new persona, Megan, to disassociate from her everyday identity and responsibility. 

While it may seem like a harmless way to escape from her boredom, it was at the cost of Nev’s heartbreak. While everything may have been fun and games to Angela, Nev believed he had found a real person with whom he had a real relationship. Catfishing is hurtful for everyone involved.

Other reasons people catfish could be because they’re lonely and don’t know how else to find companionship, they’re self-conscious and don’t believe that people will love them for who they are, so they make up a persona they think people will like, or they may be seeking attention that they don’t know how to get elsewhere.

Some catfishers are known as romance scammers, and their only goal is to form a romantic relationship to steal money from someone.

Help us catch the catfish!

We are working hard to eliminate all the catfish before you meet one. In the rare event that one slips through our nets, here are some tips:

What are the signs to look out for?

Although every catfishing scenario is as unique as the person behind it, there are some tell-tale signs to watch out for that can identify someone as a catfish. 

  1. The relationship moves quickly. We’re not talking like, “ring before spring” quickly. It’s a known fact that members of the church tend to marry quickly into a relationship, but it’s not uncommon for a catfish to attach to you even more quickly. If they start to call you things like “baby” or “dear” right off the bat, or are extremely over-complimentary on how beautiful you are, that might be a red flag. Catfish will often declare their love after a matter of days, before you’ve ever even met in person. This is an attempt to form an emotional connection so they can gain your trust. 

Tip: Don’t invest too much emotion into a relationship until you can meet in person. It can be hard not to get attached, but it’ll be harder if you find out that the person you’ve invested your time and emotion into isn’t who they say they are. 

  1. They avoid face-to-face contact. They will always have an excuse for why you can’t see their face. Maybe they are constantly working late and can’t make their date with you, or their phone camera is always conveniently broken, so they can’t video call. Even if someone is in another country, many resources are available for video calls. If someone doesn’t want you to see their face, likely, they aren’t who they say they are. 

Tip: if meeting up in person isn’t an option, at least do a video call with them so you can know that they are really who they say they are. Keep in mind that some catfish will actually use their own face, but they’ll use the “identity” of someone else by saying that, for example, they live in Chicago when really they live in Nigeria. Video calls aren’t always foolproof, but they will help you have a better idea of who you’re talking to.

  1. Their stories don’t add up. Because their persona is made of a web of fiction and lies, there are bound to be some discrepancies in their story. Some of the things they tell you may be based on truth, but pay attention to any inconsistencies, conflicting stories, or details that just don’t seem to add up. 

Tip: if there are scammers on Mutual, they usually don’t know very much about the church. Ask them whether they served a mission or ask them about a calling they’ve had, and they won’t know what those things are. Chatting briefly about the church is a quick way to identify fakers.

  1. They’re too good to be true. Nobody is perfect, and if it seems like the person you’ve met online is too good to be true, chances are, they probably are. 

Tip: get them on a video call. Like we said before, it’s not foolproof, but you can get a much better feel for the kind of person someone is if you can talk to them face to face. (Even if there’s a screen between your faces.)

  1. They quickly ask to move the conversation to a different app. Many scammers and catfishers will ask you to communicate with them via a different app, such as Whatsapp or Telegram. There’s nothing wrong with these apps, but because they’re no longer using Mutual, they can conduct their scams without us being able to detect them.

Tip: don’t move your conversation off of Mutual until you’re confident that this person is who they really say they are, whether that’s after your first date with them or after a video call. Remember that even if you move off-app and decide you’re being catfished, you can still report them to Mutual support to stop them from catfishing others in the future.

  1. They don’t seem to exist on social media or the internet. Check out their social media accounts. Not everyone uses social media, but if they’re using a dating app, there’s a good chance they have some form of social media or internet presence. Look for signs of a fake social media profile, such as limited connections or photos. Many catfishers will use pictures of influencers or that they steal from other websites. You can reverse Google image search their images to find out if those images have been used anywhere else. 

Tip: Mutual’s verification process does a pretty good job of preventing this for the most part. We require everyone to verify their profile with their face and remove anybody who is not using images of themselves. But it’s still good to take note of anything that seems off about somebody’s social media profile if you have other suspicions about them. 

  1. They ask you for money. This is one of the fastest ways to identify a catfish. They may invent some elaborate story, emergency, or dire circumstance for why they need the money, or they may say they need the money to come visit you. They may try to guilt-trip or pressure you into giving them money, or they may start out asking for small amounts of money at first, slowly leading up to larger amounts. If someone on Mutual asks you for money, please report them!

Tip: never give money to a stranger or someone you haven’t met in person, no matter how good their reason is for needing the money.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, these are the most common lies scammers tell. While any one of these may be a real-life scenario for someone, be very wary of anyone who messages you something along these lines: 

  1. “I, or someone close to me, is sick, hurt, or in jail.”
  2. “I can teach you how to invest.”
  3. “I’m in the military far away.”
  4. “I need help with an important delivery.”
  5. “We’ve never met, but let’s talk about marriage.”
  6. “I’ve come into some money or gold.”
  7. “I’m on an oil rig or ship.”
  8. “You can trust me with your private pictures.”

How to avoid being catfished

To avoid being catfished, pay attention to the signs mentioned above. If things start to feel a little fishy, trust your instinct. The majority of people you talk to aren’t going to be catfish who are out to get you, but don’t question yourself if something feels off. If you start to notice more than one of the signs listed above, you might want to consider looking into the possibility that the person you’re talking to isn’t really who they say they are. 

Never give money to someone you’ve never met, even if it feels like you know them from your conversations. Look up your matches on social media. You don’t need to go super-stalker and find out their ex’s mother’s brother’s favorite sports team, but you should look them up and make sure all the puzzle pieces fit and that their story makes sense.

What to do if you discover you’re being catfished?

  1. Stop communicating with them. Do not send them any personal information or money.
  2. Report them. You can report someone to the Mutual support team without them ever being able to trace it back to you. It’s important you report them to us so that we can stop them from catfishing other people in the future.
  3. Unmatch/block them. Unmatch with them on Mutual and block them on all other social media accounts so they can no longer communicate with you.
  4. Report to law enforcement. If you have already sent them money or personal information, report them to law enforcement. They will help instruct you on what to do next.

We hope you never have to deal with the pain of being catfished. We hope that you never feel the need to catfish someone. It’s a whirlpool of deceit where everyone gets hurt, and nobody wins.

If you have been catfished, use your resources, and get the help you need. Know that it may take time for you to trust someone online again, but there are real, genuine people on Mutual just waiting to get to know you and form a relationship with you, for real.

Kaleigh Adamson
Marketing Coordinator at Mutual | + posts

Kaleigh is a Marketing Coordinator for Mutual. She has worked with couples, relationships, dating, and love in a creative role for over a decade. She's a hopeless romantic who loves that her career allows her to help people find their soulmates. She downloaded Mutual when it first launched in 2016, coincidentally the same year she met her husband! They now live happily ever after in the Midwest with their two kids and dog.


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