There are also questions about the legality of impersonating someone who does not exist. Being too young for a website or game meant I had to lie about my age to people, resulting in building a complete persona. We have begun psychological research to investigate this question. But what sort of person becomes a social catfish? Its website provides detailed statistics of reported romance fraud in Australia, yet there is little information available about social catfishing — deception in the absence of financial fraud. The author would like to acknowledge the contribution to this article of Samantha Lo Monaco, an honours student at the University of Queensland. Dissatisfaction with their physical appearance was also a common theme, represented in around one-third of responses: The personality traits of catfish scammers As smartphones and connected devices become ever more pervasive, the chances of falling victim to deception are increasing along with our screen time. Reality hit, and I felt like a shitty human.
This commonly involves using stolen or edited photos, usually taken from an unwitting third party. But what sort of person becomes a social catfish? Some reported using false identities or personas to explore their sexuality or gender identity. More than two-thirds of responses mentioned a desire to escape: Reality hit, and I felt like a shitty human. There have been several high-profile cases of catfishing reported in the media since then. The next phase of our research is to learn what we can do to help both victims and the catfish themselves. The interviews focused mainly on their motivations and feelings about their catfishing behaviour. It could seem magical, being able to escape your insecurities … But in the end, it only worsens them. No simple solution What does it take to become a catfish, and how should we deal with this growing problem? A catfish is someone who uses false information to cultivate a persona online that does not represent their true identity. Dissatisfaction with their physical appearance was also a common theme, represented in around one-third of responses: Some of our key findings included: Somewhat surprisingly, around a quarter of respondents said they began catfishing out of practicality, or because of some outside circumstance. Victims may remain unaware of the deception for months or years — another reason catfishing often goes unreported — making it even harder to quantify. I just wanted to be more popular and make friends that could talk to me, some part of the day. Many reported feelings of guilt and self-loathing around their deceptive behaviour: More than one-third of participants expressed a desire to confess to their victims, and some had continued relations with them even after coming clean. Facebook is fighting social media identity theft in India, but it's a global problem Falling prey to catfish In the documentary, Nev Schulman learns that a woman with whom he has developed an online relationship over nine months is actually fake. Singer Casey Donovan, in her memoir, wrote about a six-year relationship that turned out to be fake — in her case, the catfish even lied about her gender. If I try to send my real, unedited pictures to anyone that seems nice, they stop responding to me. There are also questions about the legality of impersonating someone who does not exist. The personality traits of catfish scammers As smartphones and connected devices become ever more pervasive, the chances of falling victim to deception are increasing along with our screen time. If you have been a catfish, or know someone who has, please contact us to participate in our research: Until these issues are resolved, there is no clear avenue to pursue for victims of social catfish. We hope to recruit at least people who have catfished so that we can develop a more thorough picture of their personalities. Although not yet officially a crime, it is never a victimless act.
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