I’ve dialed back the level energy I spent in January and February writing about catfishing. It consumes me with negativeness, and frankly– nothing is really going to ever change at a systemic scale.

Do you really think Facebook is unaware of this problem? Given the number of reports that happen, the presence of catfishing support groups un Facebook- how can they possibly not know? And given that they know, what does it mean that they avoid responsibility? They are thus complicit. Check out this telling video where Alec Couros demonstrates a face matching tool available on a Russian dating site that is surely within the realm of Facebook’s technology:

And ask yourself- why is Facebook not providing its users a tools to face match potential “friends”? If Facebook eats the web, I sure hope the choke on some fish bones.

So do not expect Facebook to do anything except pile up advertising profit.

One catfishing victim I’ve heard from off and on for a few months, an artist, emailed recently and said that after moving trough her stages of WTF/shame/rage, she decided to work on a piece of art related to her feelings. That may be the most sound course of action I have heard from a victim.

Another victim contacted me today, and sent some photos of some Euro-dude’s dating profile site with all my photos, 4 out of six in the flickr set I keep stocked with photos known to be used by catfishers. She asked for resources. I was about to send her my Catfishing Info page, but thought about one of her comments. Once she found out she was considering just letting the scammer keep going at it:

I’m gonna play on for a little while until I figure out a way how to nail the bastard (or the group)

Just for grins, I pointed out some problems with one of the photos of supposedly this oil drill operator at work:

Just a little zooming in on the “oil drill platform” one sees the equipment is made by “Mauer Manufacturing” – an Iowa company that makes agricultural equipment, not oil drilling machinery. You can see reflected in the front window of the supposed oil rig, not ocean or rock, but a field of grain. And that big tub shooting in the back? I am not sure what it’s called, but the machine is actually a combine owned by a farmer friend I visited in Ontario. That’s where the grain gets shot into the big bin in back.

It takes very little to find problems in the photos, even before victims do a reverse image search and find that the face they knew as “James” or “Malle” belongs to some guy named Alan.

This whole thing reminded me of the TED Talk James Vietch did when he decided to do the atypical reaction to spam email- he replied to see how far the scammer would go:

And that was so much fun, right, that it got me thinking: like, what would happen if I just spent as much time as could replying to as many scam emails as I could? And that’s what I’ve been doing for three years on your behalf.

Crazy stuff happens when you start replying to scam emails. It’s really difficult, and I highly recommend we do it. I don’t think what I’m doing is mean. There are a lot of people who do mean things to scammers. All I’m doing is wasting their time. And I think any time they’re spending with me is time they’re not spending scamming vulnerable adults out of their savings, right?

It’s well worth a watch:

But his message again got me thinking– “All I’m doing is wasting their time. And I think any time they’re spending with me is time they’re not spending scamming vulnerable adults out of their savings, right?”

Catfishing victims have almost no recourse. Facebook does absolutely nothing; and I’ve shown more than once how flawed their so-called reporting system really is. There is almost no legal recourse because the scammers are overseas, virtually untraceable, and I’ve been told because victims willingly give up money, the burden of proof of a crime is proving psychological damage.

And frankly, I think I lot of people in general look down on victims as almost being responsible for being fooled.

But here is something victim can do. I am not sure how many would really want to do this, but imagine if A LOT of them did?

Victims can waste the scammers time. They can continue acting like the romance is alive. Like a catfosh on a line, rather than cutting the line, let that fish swim and swim and swim and tire itself out. “the more time [a scammer] is spending with me is time they’re spending scamming [others]”

And there would be, I expect, a bit of satisfaction in flipping the con, because now a victim is armed with the truth of the scammers deceit, but the scammer would not know it. Their con is a long game, they spend weeks or more courting victims. If you can make them spend more wasted time chasing an knowledgeable victim who won’t ever send them money- it’s that much time they are not entangling women who are not in the know.

So thus I added this bit to by Catfishing Info Page:

If You Really Want Revenge– Waste Their Time! Let Them Think They are Still Fooling You…
While I doubt many victims would want to do this, if you really want to get back at them– you might consider how you can waste their time and effort. What I mean is continue to, like the fish, play them out, continue to act like you are in love, and do whatever you can to make them expend effort to fool you.

That’s right, take action, and scam the scammers.

Imagine if this happened on a massive scale.

Imagine an organized effort, as organized as the scammer’s operation.

Imagine all those catfish just swimming around, going nowhere, and becoming worn out, starved from exhaustion.

From chathamdailynews.ca

From chathamdailynews.ca

It seems beautiful.

Update: See also Scambaiting https://www.419eater.com/


Top / Featured Image: I had hard time with the search engines. I was not even sure of the fishing term when you avoid reeling in a fish and let it swim and tire out. I finally figured it was “palying out the line” but when you combine “play” and “fish” you get a lot of cute graphics of video games or drawings representing the game “Go Fish”.

The image I found is from a Dutch fishing blog post— it carries no license or credit (as it seems 98% of the web), so while it’s not strictly re-usable, I am giving more credit than they are.

If this kind of stuff has value, please support me by tossing a one time PayPal kibble or monthly on Patreon
Profile Picture for Alan Levine aka CogDog
An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at CogDogBlog.com on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person.

Comments

  1. Hi, I was scammed by Jesus Thomas Peterson, JT to his friends. He used a lot of your pictures, even finding one of you out to dinner supposedly in China with what looks like a legit background. The food was weird looking and you were holding chop sticks. Haven’t see those on your Catfish picture page yet. If you want them please let me know and I will forward them on to you.

    Funny, from the very beginning I figured it was a scam and said I didn’t have any money so it wasn’t worth scamming me. He assured me that he had more than enough for me and my daughter. So I guess I’m one of the lucky ones. Just thought you’d like to know that you are still circulating as new catfishers. Take care, and thanks for all the info on your blog.

      1. I understand completely. It’s too bad that it wasn’t really you that I was talking to. You’re very interesting and I’ve enjoyed your blog and YouTube series. I guess you should be flattered that all of these guys want to be you. This has been my first experience with catfishing and as sad as it is, I’ve learned quite a lot from you. Thank you for turning this issue into a refreshing and enlightening education. Im also taking to heart your theory that if we keep them “on the hook” less people will hopefully be spared. Searching google images has helped me catch and hopefully embarrass quite a few. I enjoy the challenge of letting them know that I am smarter than they think I am!

    1. Don’t blame your self I fell hard for this scammer girl and it wasn’t as much money is the hurt of letting someone in that was a fake. But now days I mess with them and scare the living crap out of them have to start doing things to get them to stop. Had a lady I was just being friendly next I know I’m finding out shes and escort and I say I don’t pay later. She called my wife’s phone thinking to cause a problem I had already told her so she told her off and two weeks later I got a pay pal request it was her. I spot them almost right off and sometimes I can waste a month of the time one it’s been 3 months and she hasn’t a clue I’m conning the con. I save and archive everything and pass it on to this place http://www.romancescamsnow.com/category/romance-scamming-regions/ghana-scams-scammers/. They not only cause monetary theft what about the mental damage I couldn’t believe I had that many feeling for someone I have never seen. I get a laugh and I love to mess with jerks anywaythe only reason I do this because not really on right side is they are stealing peoples money they worked hard for and breaking there heart You never ever make money by taking advantage of older lonely people.

      1. Amen! For nine weeks I was involved= hah! With an oil rig scammer. One time I actually sent $300 to his “fake sister”. Of course, I was very fortunate cuz Western Union must have his sisters address and other info so they intervened! Though they could only give me a refund and not share any other info.
        My family didnt have a clue that this was going on. At one point, I spilled my guts to my daughter in lawWho sent him a scathing message on his Instagram, deleted his number from my phone and I breathed a sigh of relief!
        Within three days, I crazily reached out to him and started Emailing regularly. Low and behold, he “suffered” a horrible second oil rig related injury and requests to help him, “as only I could” , began again. I promised to send him $300 via a Money Order on August 12, 2019. Needless to say, I came to my senses and now am dealing with the shame, heartbreak and confusion!
        I’m a professional and have read reams on social media since then.. are there actual/ physical support groups in Scottsdale/ Phoenix AZ so I can meet with a woman who is dealing with this?
        Not sure if it’s a mistake, but after several days of emailing me that he hadn’t received the money, he sent a email from his “fake” daughter. At that point, I lost it and sent him an email that he/it is laughing at hysterically, but it made me feel much better!
        For several days he continued to be horribly upset (hah!) that I would doubt him and acted Offended!
        Here’s my question: how long will it take for me to forget about him?
        I realize I am extremely fortunate to have essentially lost only nine weeks of my life and lost zero money; but I still find myself “hoping against hope” that the situation has been real! See! I need help?,,
        The situation has proven to me that all of the red flags were there from the start! Poor grammar, inconsistent answers, focus on “our love and future together.”
        As intelligent as I am, i truly didn’t know about the oil rig men! Now that I’ve researched it, ad nauseum!, I can share this info with every woman I meet! I’m a Registered Nurse, for 33 years! One morning I woke up to my Instagram pinging non-stop. Graphic photos of a severe? Hand injury. Bought it “hook, line and sinker.” Then, subsequent photos of his hand healing!
        Made the mistake of describing myself as a good Catholic girl! Soon thereafte9br, he told me he was in Prayer Hour! Even quoted me Bible Besides the original Instagram photo on my profile, even though he didn’t ask for them! I sent three photos on his phone. They were not in any way Indecent! Do I need to worry about them being out there?
        Funny, I thought seriously about playing along… now, I’ve just read that that can be helpful…
        That they waste a lot of time, get no money! And it protects other poor womenfrommuchgrief…
        Actually, this “sharing” has helped me. A woman who has been married and divorced three times and who has not been looking for a man until the fateful first text from him, shouldn’t have been affected like I have, right? Please, any advice?

  2. I just discovered today that the guy l’ve been talking with is fake… honestly l kinda figured when he video chatted ( but his camera isn’t working) …. l finally was able to get a hit back on an image through Tineye. Like you mentioned in the article, I’m gonna keep this one on the line for a while…his new phone suppose to be delivered tomorrow.. l just have to see how this one goes. He hasn’t asked for money… l think he is lonely.. funny thing is that we connected on a game site not on any of the dating/hookup apps so this makes me even more curious, why a fake profile. I also want to know how he got so many pictures of the fake guy…might be a friend of his.

    1. My oil rig fake, didn’t talk about Skyping or any other way of actual “seeing” each other.
      When I brought up wanting to hear his voice (not cuz I didn’t believe he existed) but cuz I simply wanted to hear him, in Person, he eventually mentioned that he could “secretly talk to me on Hangout.” Twotexts later, he told me he talks to his (fake!) daughter every day! Liar!Liar! Pants on fire.
      Sweetheart, just be careful! Maybe your guy is legit…maybe a horrible person (I now know about women pretending to be men…)I spent nine weeks of my valuable life in an intense Instagram/ emailing non-stop relationship! I am a professional, smart,otherwise, and was certainly not looking for a Man! Boom! My 45 year old son sent my photo to Instagram, and within Six hours had ten men wanting to follow/ like my photo! Ironically, I kept onlyHIS photoand it started slowly and then,as he later told me (hah!) he explained to his 13 year old daughter Jane! ( of course, her first photo was of a girl who truly could have been 13; then, the last was of a probable 60 year old woman! That “our love was like a runaway train!”
      Here’s a hint: While trying to figure your situation out, talk to good friends! Embarrassed to say, until my daughter in law “busted” me, not one single person knew what I was up to!
      I even told him that he was my little secret!
      It was great fun, until I realized it wasn’t!
      There is a ton of info out there.
      Until my late May birthday I didn’t have access to an IPad so had very limited knowledge to the very real dangers out there.
      The hurtful part: I thought I was spilling my guts/heart and soul/ details no one should everknow about me, to someone who asked me to marry him one day short of our three week texting anniversary!
      Sounds crazy, but I apparently fell for it!
      At the first, even seemingly legit, hint of a need for a loan, run very fast! My Eric, didn’t even hint at a need for cash until he suffered a severe injury on his oil rig (complete with very believablephotos!) . Luckily, Western Union saved me from a $300 loss ( have read about thousands of women out there who have lost their life savings…) . Then, it was my idea to again send him money to help with a second injury (complete with more photos!) via a Money Order! Not sure if it was a deep gut feeling, or a ver big chance of losing my and my kids self respect, but I walked out of the store and told my family the sordid details.
      Proud of my decision but, still grieving a man I never even spoke to.
      Don’t be that woman! Good luck and I’ll pray For You! Marcia

  3. The story got really screwy. There was an accident, night in the hospital…yada, yada, yada…all to identify that he didn’t get the phone and now is using an “old” one which btw also didn’t have the camera working. While I wish no harm on people, this would go in the “Really!?!, Seriously??” column. I basically told him he was lying and he was a fake. He responded that he will prove it to me that he wasn’t and that made him upset…. I then sent him the picture I found online with his actual name….and “poof” he vanished. I did report it to the gaming site. The video chat is a must to ask for to ensure your are not being played.

  4. Please discuss the phenomenon of GROUPS (“schools”?) of catfish, all in cahoots, playing multiple unsuspecting victims in the group–and their possible motives and methods. Thanks a lot.

    1. I can’t really add any information to the idea of schools of catfish (I think a better name is needed here for a group, maybe a “scam of catfishers”). I’ve understood that these are often organized programs managed almost like a business, with databases, and systems in place for running the scams.

      I’d almost wish for a piranha to jump in the pool and go to work on them, but often that makes thing worse. But yes, I believe these are organized species.

    2. Until now, never heard the term “groups! But, since my oil rig man proved his blatant stupidity to me and my family, I can identify him as not only pathetic, but part of an ignorant group of evil human ? Beings!
      Recently, have spent much time learning of the ills of many individuals out there on Social Media.
      Hah! Tried for $600 in total for broke oil rig machinery injury ( oh, that was two !) and guess what? Only got a $25 Google Play card before I caught on to the asshole! And no money!!!
      I’m sure the receipt and lies will be forgotten soon…
      Gotta laugh big time….
      Not only nine weeks of mylife BUT $25 is not worth even a losers time, huh?

  5. I was catfished about two years ago. Luckily I googled the pics he sent and realized he was not the same person. I blew up and cursed him out. Since then I’ve been catfished twice again. I quickly called them out but now, I have another person I met on Words with Friends. He goes by Bryan Cave. He is not who he says he is. His English is choppy for someone from Florida. He asked me to go to Hangouts to chat (always a big sign). I decided to string him along. I asked him to send me a bunch of pics. He did. They belong to someone named Joe Cross on Facebook.

    I like your advice. I’m gonna string him along as long as I can. I’ve already reported him to Words with Friends. I’ll keep you informed

    1. Isn’t it a stressful waste of time to “string someone along?”I spent nine weeks of my valuable life and just want to teach “real people” that I’m valuable…

  6. So I’ve been chatting with this guy from okcupid for a few weeks. I knew after a few days something was up. I just learned how to do a reverse image search and tada! He’s a fake. Which I was actually hoping for. Sounds crazy I know. But as soon as I suspected it was not real I wanted to try and play along. I just didn’t know how and honestly I wanted to make sure it was fake so I didn’t feel bad. So tonight after discovering that a reverse image search was a thing and that the I’ll images came up as someone else, actually multiple other people. I searched for articles on how to keep the catphish and I happily came across your article.
    This is going to be hard for me because I don’t like lying to people but if I can remember that by keeping him “on my line” will hopefully help with other victims then I’m all for it.
    So, if you have any advice for me to keep up the charade I’ll gladly take it.
    Thank you so much for your article.

    1. I hope I can find words to see how much I appreciate seeing your message Amy, and hearing how you found the empowering steps to spot the catfish before they struck.

      Given the limits of what can be done with the law and prosecution, and that the makers of the ponds (especially the one that rhymes with “Spacehook”) have a vested interest in not protecting it’s real users, I see this kind of action (as well as spreading awareness) as the more sane route.

      That said, I have no direct experience to share. I don’t think you need to be lying to just keep the dialogue going. Engage, respond, and act the part. From what I know, after a period of long back and forth, there will be the first small ask of money. See how long you can play that out, citing technical problems and maybe that it was sent.

      You might want to look up the name for this — scam baiting, where you aim to scam the scammers of their time / energy. Look especially at https://www.419eater.com/.

      I hope you can learn to tire out a catfish.

    2. Hi Amy. I did exactly what you are about to do. I caught on pretty early and realized he was fake. I met him on Words With Friends.

      After about a week, I just couldn’t take it anymore.

      First I reported him to Words. Then I outed him. I screamed at him in all CAPS that he was a fraud and that I had already reported him. I pretended to be extremely hurt. I wanted him to admit his wrongdoing. He begged for my forgiveness. I told him that I’ll never trust another person in life. He continued to message me for several days. I didn’t reply. All of his messages were begging to be forgiven and that he never meant to hurt anyone.

      Then I blocked him.

      To be honest, it’s not worth it. I was exhausted. I believe he changed profiles and tried to play more Word games with me. I never accepted.

      Although I played along, I didn’t get any satisfaction from it.

      Just my 2 cents.

  7. How do I find a catfisher whose time I can waste?

    I had one for 9 months but (s)he gave up as I always had “surprising troubles” on sending money. I am serious. It was fun and now I have no one.

  8. ok here it goes lol …..i have been married for 15 yrs and the marriage fell apart and have now filed for divorce.anyways my head wasnt screwd on right and i went onto the Meetme ap where “kassandra” messaged me. we started talking on there and she asked me if i had hangout well being married for 15 yrs and not keen on all the aps on iphone i downloaded it.and continued to talk.she told me that she didnt mind the 23 yrs difference in our ages. and told me she lost both parents and she was living in Indianapolis with her step mom and she was going to school to further her education and had dreams of teaching at a university.
    i started to suspect that something was off with the grammar on the text but that maybe she was from another country so i asked her and was told she was a immigrant from peru and moved to New Jersey as a young girl with her father,fair enough right?
    we kept exchanging selfies through out our convos as she would ask tme to send one and i told her to return the favor….all of the pics where consistant but then i kept asking for facetime or just to talk and hear each others voice and the excuse i got was phone was messed up..and being she was still a student didnt have the money to get a new one
    our plan was once she got her schooling done she was gonna relocate to chicago and i would join her and i was on board being divorced and nothing keeping me in my current city and i needed a fresh start in a new city anyways we talked and talked and finally she told me she had to do a 6 week coarse at Oxford in London and like a fool i sent her the 300 .she asked for to help cover her personal needs while there
    thats when i got real suspicious and uploaded a couple of photos onto a search and low and behold i discovered this girl was a world famous porn star talk about a eye opener lol. i confronted kassie about it and she confessed to doing porn after her father passed away as she was alone and vulnerable and let bad people influence her head…but that she stopped after 6 months at the request of her step-mom who let her move in and continue her studys …doing more and more digging kassie has done up to date 800+ movies has a website site where she puts on live web shows and has a net worth of 3 million dollars..
    i messaged kassie and told her what i thought of her and blocked her from having any contact with me… sorry for the long drag out story but couldnt stop and now thinking of revenge as in buliding a fake profile and catching thease assholes.

    1. Wow, Terry, I appreciate that you shared this (especially as stories of men being catfished seem fewer, but maybe I am wrong) and more than you got some signals that things were not as they seemed. With $3 million she was trying to con you (but leave room to doubt the person who contacted was the wealthy kassie).

      I have no belief that systems or algorithms can “protect” us from this, but our own stories and armed with ones from others, that human intuition can.

      While the idea of trapping and revenge sounds good, I’m not too sure in the long run if that will help either. In fact, I’m not sure of anything!

      1. idk if it would either …i guess to call it for my own personal satisfaction that maybe “kassie” would pop back into my life lol guess i was brought up to believe in the “eye for a eye’ mentality.. but if i continue to pursue this that i will definatly be more smarter.

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