What is catfishing?

The eSafety Commissioner describes catfishing as 'when someone pretends to be someone they’re not by using social media to create a false identity, usually to defraud or scam someone else’ - just as Josh did in the Christmas movie Love Hard.

Catfishers can also be found on dating sites or online chat rooms. Often people who catfish make up fake backgrounds, jobs or friends so that they appear as someone else. Using this fake identity, they may even trick a person into believing they are in an online romance, before using this to ask for money, gifts or nudes.

What does catfishing look like?

  • Being encouraged to share more than you usually would. People who catfish may encourage you to tell them your secrets, so they can embarrass you by sharing them with others.

  • Being encouraged to share your personal details. People who catfish may want your details so they can scam you, or steal your identity.

  • Someone who only wants you to send pictures of yourself, especially nude ones.

Just remember that if you need support or someone to talk to, our Sonder support team is available 24/7 to chat whenever you need it.

The signs of catfishing look out for these red flags

Often it can be tricky to notice the signs of being catfished but these are some red flags to look out for when chatting with someone online:

  • They don’t seem to use their social media accounts much.

  • The way they chat or act does not seem to match their profile.

  • They seem to know a lot about you and are interested in all the same things as you.

  • They want you to send photos or live videos of yourself, but always have excuses about why they can't send you any images of them - like saying that their webcam is not working - so you can’t check what they really look like.

  • They make plans with you to meet in person, but always have to cancel at the last minute.

  • They ask you to send money to pay for travel arrangements or any other purpose.

For more information on trusting your instincts, read the eSafety article on Unsafe or unwanted contact. While you're there, you can also read more about the subject of identity theft.

What do I do if something has happened?

If it sounds too good to be true, chances are you’re probably right.

Always be on your guard if someone randomly makes contact out of the blue and trust your instincts. If their story isn’t adding up, you’re right to be suspicious of them. Identify the red flags, and think about these questions:

  • Do they seem to know a lot about you?

  • Are they pressuring you to send money, or nude photos?

  • Are they your dream partner or friend, contacting you out of the blue?

Refrain from sharing anything too personal until you are 100% sure they are who they say they are.

Do some online investigating
If you're feeling unsure about the person you're talking to, you can always do your own online research. You can verify their picture using a Google reverse image search. If the photo is connected to lots of different names or is literally the picture of an actor or celebrity, this is a serious red flag. You can also check them out on other social media sites. They may be a catfish if they:

  • Have a very low friend count.

  • Have barely posted anything.

  • Are not tagged in photos.

Check your privacy settings

The eSafety Guide has information about how to do this on different online platforms. Make sure you are comfortable with the amount of personal information you put online in general. If you’re not sure what’s out there, you can read also read the eSafety article about how to manage your digital footprint.


Screenshot, report and block on the platform.
The eSafety Guide has information about how to do this on different online platforms. Confidentially reporting fake accounts can help keep the platform safe for others, and you can do this before blocking them.

Consider contacting the Police
If you've been defrauded of money or are experiencing image-based abuse (i.e nude photos of you are being used for blackmail or being shared without your consent), consider contacting your local Police station to lodge a report. Many catfishers try their tactics on multiple victims.


If you have any questions or need extra support, we're here to help you anytime in any language. Simply start a chat with us via the home screen of the Sonder app.

Image credit: Love Hard movie (Netflix)

All content is created and published for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice. Always seek the guidance of a qualified health professional.

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