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How to Tell If You're Being Catfished: 7 Signs of a Shady Online Relationship

Jorge's relationship advice is based on experience and observation. Let his trial and error be your success (hopefully).

Do you want to know how to tell if you're being catfished? Take a look at the signs below. To be honest, they probably won't shock you.

Do you want to know how to tell if you're being catfished? Take a look at the signs below. To be honest, they probably won't shock you.

How to Tell If You're Being Catfished: Did You Fall For a Faker?

Being lied to isn't fun. It's even worse when the deception is in the guise of an otherwise exciting relationship. When you get invested in a new connection, it's easy to ignore a whole sea of waving red flags. If you're looking up how to tell if you're being catfished, though, then you're probably already suspicious. You might have already noticed something shady about them, too.

It may be hard, but try to be objective. Take a look at these signs of catfishing and consider if they might apply to your situation:

1. They Refuse to Appear on Video

Has your partner so far avoided having live video chats with you? Worse, do they also refuse voice calls or any form of non-text communications?

Do they keep making lame excuses, such as saying their phone's camera is "broken" or they can't figure out how to set up the video software?

Nowadays, decent cameras are commonplace. So are simple-to-use video conferencing apps. Many times, a video chat or live streaming function will be built right into a texting app. If your online boyfriend or girlfriend can figure out how to text you, then surely they can tap the little camera icon in the corner and show you their face.

And if their phone really is broken, then surely they can borrow their friend's phone (or tablet or laptop or any of the other countless devices that have a camera) for just a few minutes, if for no other reason than to quickly prove to you who they are.

Unless...they just don't care enough to bother. In that case, even if they're not a catfish, it doesn't sound like they're very interested in the relationship. If they were serious about seeing you, they would probably find a way.

Even if the camera is broken on every single one of your online partner's phones, tablets, and laptops...external web cams exist, you know?

Even if the camera is broken on every single one of your online partner's phones, tablets, and laptops...external web cams exist, you know?

2. They Contacted You Out of the Blue and They Look Like They Could Be a Model

It's not always a sign that someone is a catfish if they just happen to contact you randomly on social media. People do this all the time: They see someone's profile picture and decide to slide into their DMs. It's definitely not unheard of and it doesn't mean they're necessarily a scammer.

It's also perfectly within the realm of possibility that someone hot may be interested in you. Maybe you're extremely attractive yourself or maybe they noticed something else about you that they really liked.

Having said that, let's be real here: If your partner's pictures look like they could belong to a celebrity or a model, are they really the kind of person who is likely to be messaging random people for romantic purposes? Wouldn't they be getting plenty of prospects and attention in real life?

That's not to say that you're not worth the effort or that they're out of your league. You may be the most awesome person in the world. Consider this, though: They had no way of knowing that when they messaged you. All they had to go by was a social media profile. Does it make any sense that something on your page would pique their interest that much?

That may be the case. They may have felt a special connection just from reading your posts or looking at your photos.

But they could also be a catfish. Catfishes often choose uncommonly attractive photos to lure people in and then message people randomly.

This point alone may not be enough to confirm your suspicions, but combined with some of the other points below, it might give you pause.

3. They Can't Send You Pics on the Fly

Is your partner's profile suspiciously sparse? Do they only have a couple of pictures and seem unable to send you new ones when you ask? Are they unable to send you pictures with specific requests, such as photos from locations they claim to have gone to recently?

Well, this may be because they simply don't have those photos. They may have "borrowed" the pictures from someone else's profile and don't have any other ones to work with. Some catfishes even use stock photos of models! You might be able to find out if this is the case by doing a reverse image search on Google.

You know how to tell if you're being catfished? A fishy-looking dating profile that looks like the pictures are screenshots pulled from an Instagram model's feed.

You know how to tell if you're being catfished? A fishy-looking dating profile that looks like the pictures are screenshots pulled from an Instagram model's feed.

4. There's Always Some Excuse For Why They Can't Meet Up

"Oh man, my car broke down. I can't believe it! I won't be able to meet up this weekend after all."

"Sorry I stood you up, something at work came up suddenly and I couldn't say no to my boss."

"I've been swamped with schoolwork lately. Maybe we can see each other some other time!"

Does this sound like your online love interest? Worse, have they failed to show up after making plans with you multiple times?

If you're wondering how to tell if you're being catfished...well, this is the ultimate sign.

Sure, stuff happens. People's cars break down or they end up having to stay late at work--but eventually, one of your feeble attempts to meet has to work out somehow, right? Chances are high that your partner has no interest in meeting if this keeps happening over and over. It could be because they are a catfish or because they simply aren't as into you as you thought, but either way you may want to rethink the connection.

5. They Don't Seem to Have Real Life Friends

Have you stalked their profile a little, but it seems they have no pictures where they are just hanging out with friends? If they do have friends in their pictures, are none of them tagged or do they not seem to match up with the friends or followers that they have on their profile?

Does this person not seem to have a real life existence at all and all their interactions are with other online friends?

Do some light investigating. Poke around a bit (obviously only look at publicly available info; don't be creepy). Connect the dots.

If your love interest only seems to be active online, they may simply be a homebody who doesn't like having an active in-person social life. However, this is also a sign that they could be a catfish, especially combined with other red flags.

How You Met Your Potential Catfish

6. They Are Evasive With Information

Are they stingy with the details? Do they avoid answering all sorts of basic questions, like what they do at work, whether they have kids, and what their relationship life is like?

They could just be a very private person who doesn't want to share information with people online. If you've been dating them, though, it stands to reason that they should trust you a little more than to be so mysterious. At the very least, they should be willing to talk about everyday things.

How much do you really know about this person?

Maybe you're not being catfished. Maybe your love prospect is just self-conscious about his bald spot and needs time to get a proper wig. (But probably not.)

Maybe you're not being catfished. Maybe your love prospect is just self-conscious about his bald spot and needs time to get a proper wig. (But probably not.)

7. The Details Just Don't Add Up (or You Already Caught Them in a Lie)

Let's say they do offer you information, though. They tell you all about their life and construct a complex picture of who they are for you.

Great, it must be true, right? No one would make all this stuff up.

True enough, most people wouldn't. Most people are actually pretty honest (or simply bad liars), but people who have a little more practice can indeed weave a whole fantasy world, as if they are in a role-playing game. That's totally fine if you're in an actual role-playing game and consenting to being told these stories--but you're not!

And even the best-told stories have small plot holes and inconsistencies, at least when someone is trying to pass them off as the 100% truth. So ask about the details. If you catch them in even one small lie--especially if the lie is about something dumb--this is a sign that you are being catfished potentially.

For example, let's say that your potential partner says that they go to a community college in City X and are studying to become a mechanic. After some light research, though, you discover that this school doesn't have a program for mechanics at all.

Why would they lie about that? It would be one thing if they lied to make themselves look good, such as by saying that they're rich when they're actually broke, but if they're lying about something so inconsequential...what major things could they be lying about? Is their whole life made up as well?

Another thing to look for are just weird inconsistencies. Your subconscious mind will usually catch these before you consciously do. It will whisper in the back of your brain like a little voice.

When you find these inconsistencies, bring them up. See if there's a logical explanation or see if your online boyfriend or girlfriend only digs themselves deeper.

No need to get paranoid--but think about it: Do the details add up? Does your partner refuse to just call you or send you a video to clear things up once and for all?

No need to get paranoid--but think about it: Do the details add up? Does your partner refuse to just call you or send you a video to clear things up once and for all?

You (Probably) Already Know How to Tell If You're Being Catfished

Everyone has instincts. Deep inside, you probably know how to tell if you're being catfished, but you simply needed some confirmation.

If you found yourself nodding to a lot of the stuff in this article, there's a chance that the person you're talking to may not be who they seem. This doesn't mean you have to blow up at them, but it does mean that you might want to examine the relationship more deeply.

Are they willing to address your concerns? Even if they aren't a catfish, can they reflect and understand how their catfish-like behavior could have led you to those conclusions? Are they responding to your reasonable suspicions by offering some hard evidence that they are real?

On the other hand, do they get angry at the mere suggestion that you're suspicious? Worse, do they give you the silent treatment or try to turn it around on you and accuse you of being paranoid?

Well, whether or not you are being catfished, you don't want a partner who is unwilling to see your perspective. Assuming your suspicions are perfectly reasonable (for example, if they refuse to meet in person or appear on video), it shouldn't come as a shock to them that you're wondering if they are real.

So if in your heart of hearts, you sense that you might be dating a catfish (or that something just isn't right), don't ignore that inner voice. Insist that your partner offer you some basic evidence of who they are before you invest further in the relationship. A simple video call could clear things up.

Have You Been Catfished Before?

There's one last thing to consider: Have you been catfished before? If not, have you been entangled in unsatisfying online relationships more than once, and it cost you a lot of grief because you were never able to meet?

Maybe it's time to start asking yourself why. Do you feel unable to make connections in person? Do you feel safer hiding behind a screen?

It's one thing if you simply prefer to meet people online, but it's another thing entirely if there's some deeper issue holding you back from meeting people face to face. If you really would rather have an in-person connection, but are too scared or insecure, talking to people exclusively online is not going to fill that need. It might be painful to come out of your comfort zone, but if you never get to the root of the issue, you'll likely be frustrated by catfishes for some time to come.

Give yourself the gift of facing those things that hold you back. You are worth it!

When They're Not a Catfish

Maybe you think all of this through, make plans to meet your online partner, and it turns out they are exactly who they say they are. Yay!

This can be great, but don't be bummed if things are also awkward at first. Even if your partner is not a catfish, sometimes people can seem very different in person than they do online. This happened to me, actually, when I was younger and traveled to meet a partner I met online. They were absolutely not a catfish, but their personality was quite different when we finally saw each other in person.

This can happen for a number of reasons: Sometimes people are willing to be emotionally vulnerable online, when there's a screen between you, and then they are more guarded in person. This can be especially true for people who are serial online daters. They might just be afraid of in-person vulnerability, so they avoid meeting and then accidentally come off as catfishes.

Even if they've told you all the intimate details of their life--like that partner had done with me--you might still need to build up trust face to face. Some people have no walls when it comes to this, while others will have a hard time not viewing you as a stranger until they've spent some more time with you. (They might have even thought YOU were a catfish before you met.)

Either way, have patience. If it turns out that you have an opportunity to take your online connection to the next level, then take things at a reasonable pace and treat it like any other relationship!

When You Started to Suspect

© 2021 Jorge Vamos

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