Caught out by ‘Catfishing’

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Numerous cases of ‘catfishing’ have come to light in recent times, illustrating just how dangerous the web can be and highlighting a grave concern over just how safe an individual’s images and personal details are on the world wide web.

A ‘catfish’ is an individual who pretends to be someone they’re not using a social media account for the purpose of creating a false identity.

‘Catfishing’ is a startling reality in today’s era of digital communication and can have serious repercussions for those affected.

Many of the ‘do-no-gooders’ hide behind a computer/iPod/tablet screen as they scam their way into building a romantic relationship with unsuspecting victims.

Not only do those responsible for catfishing steal the identity of other individuals, but they post false information alongside the image they have stolen of an individual they may or may not know.

Aida Skirmantaite, a fourth year journalism student in DIT, spoke about her experience of being catfished and the terror associated with realising that someone somewhere is pretending to be you.

Aida couldn’t understand why she had fallen victim to catfishing and what had attracted the perpetrator to her page. “I asked myself why would they choose me,” she said.

For Aida the whole experience of being catfished started when the fake page was suggested to a fellow Facebook friend.

That friend happened to run the page by Aida, as he knew the profile picture was of Aida but the name underneath was far from hers and instead supposedly was that of an Irish woman.

Aida’s boyfriend added the fake page in order to discover who the personal identity thief was but to no avail. Aida then immediately reported the site to Facebook who took action by removing the page.

Since the experience Aida has tightened the security surrounding her online social media profiles and is more aware of what can happen in a realm of virtual communication. She now searches for any associations with images on her social media account through an application called ‘Tineye.com’, a “reverse image search engine” that has the ability to find out where an image online came from, how it is being used online, and if any modified images exists.

Another social media account holder Jennifer McDonald commented, “I’ve never been catfished but I get loads of friend requests and messages from profiles that are clearly fake and are people catfishing. I usually go onto the page and block them and I usually don’t write back to them but I did once and it was a weird experience so I just block them all now.”

Essentially catfishing is pretending be someone you’re not on popular social media accounts as seen in the case of 21-year-old journalist Emma Nolan whose images were uploaded to a Tinder account and used for online dating purposes.

A 2010 movie entitled Catfish brought to light this shocking scenario by telling the tale of a 28-year-old man named Nev Schulman who fell head over heels in love with a stranger’s Facebook profile picture only for her picture to be remarkably different to what she looked like in reality. The movie was a success and furthermore went on to inspire a series of documentaries on the issue.

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