As someone with a lot of experience using dating apps, you might think I would understand how NOT to get catfished. But the truth is that it's impossible to meet someone on a dating app without the possibility of meeting someone who is out to take advantage of you.
I've NEVER learned how NOT to get catfished, I've just learned how to understand the risks of being online.
I'd like to say that I can tell you the secret to identifying a catfisher but the reality is that you have to open yourself up when messaging someone on your dating app. Opening up means having to give a little trust to gain a little trust.
You can't figure out if someone is untrustworthy without having them break your trust.
Experiencing catfishing, or having your trust broken in any way is painful, but the experiences that teach you the most, are the painful ones.
Today I'll share one of the three experiences that I know was catfishing. I'll also admit that there were possibly more people who tried to catfish me but I just got better at calling out discrepancies and asking for clarification.
The first experience involves someone calling themselves Mark. His texts were interesting, inquisitive, fun, and he seemed like a really great guy. He said he was new to Toronto, originally from Montreal, which explained why he didn't know things about the city that most people would know.
We texted for weeks! During these exchanges, there were some inconsistencies - very small meaningless things that didn't add up. He didn't seem to know short forms like IDK or STFU, which seemed odd for his age. He didn't seem to know Montreal well (I lived there for a year) but the thing that I called him on was his use of the word flat instead of apartment or condo. He tried to explain it but it still didn't add up.
The biggest flag (for me as a woman) was that he was reluctant to meet. So when there had been multiple red flags and I pushed him about his explanation that didn't make sense, he deleted his account. Didn't just block me, full on deleted his account.
Having someone just delete their account after having spent weeks getting to know them was really hard, especially because this was the first time it happened. I was honest when I talked about my life, my work experiences, my fears and my childhood. I can only guess that all of his messages were an elaborate fantasy.
After he deleted his account I questioned myself...was I too harsh with my questions? My first reaction was to blame myself. I took a couple of weeks to get perspective on this. It's definitely hard when you can't look back on the conversation, but I don't think my reactions or responses were inappropriate in any way.
I asked for an explanation, didn't accuse him and when the explanation didn't line-up I asked for more clarification. Truthfully, I didn't accuse him of catfishing because I had not really understood the term or realized it could happen to me.
My best guess - Mark was an older man living in another country wanting to have some online fun. But it happened at my expense.
As shitty as this was, I learned some lessons about what catfishing is and what some things are to look out for. I was emotionally catfished two more times after this experience.
In my mind there are two types of catfishing.
The first type is emotional catfishing. This is what I experienced while I was actively using dating apps to get to know people.
The other type is illegal catfishing. These are the people who are trying to gain your trust and do something illegal. Get you to send them money, get financial information, blackmail you, or some other illegal purpose.
Thankfully I've never experienced illegal catfishing but I've been hurt by emotional catfishing.
Possibly the most valuable lesson I learned was to give and receive some sort of 'proof of life' that we are both real people. And if they are consistent, then we can meet in person.
The dating world is wild, but if you buckle your seat belt and drive safely, it can be a great ride!