How to Outsmart a Catfish: 7 Strategies

If you ever meet people online, you need to know how to outsmart a catfish. The internet makes it so easy for people to obscure their identities. Many people take advantage of the opportunity to be whoever they want online. So how can you know who to trust?

In this article, we’ll tell you how to outsmart a catfish. There are certain red flags you should look out for when you meet someone online. Then, if someone rouses your suspicion, there are 7 strategies you can use to confirm someone’s identity or find out if they are lying to you. Finally, we’ll tell you what to do next if you do find a catfish out.

How to Outsmart a Catfish: Reasons People Catfish

If you want to know how to outsmart a catfish, you need to know what one is. A catfish is someone who pretends to be someone else online in order to dupe a particular victim. The internet provides people with a cloak of anonymity. Online, you can be whoever you want to get whatever you want—until you’re caught, of course.

On a small scale, a catfish is someone who uses fake or doctored photos to convince someone to go out with them. But a catfish scheme, also known as a romance scheme, is when a person fakes love, affection, and/or attention in a long-distance relationship in order to get something from the victim. 


Possible reasons for catfishing include boredom, low self-esteem, or dissatisfaction in a current relationship. It gives some people the excitement of being in a relationship without many of the responsibilities of seeing it through.

For some people, it’s enough to build relationships online just for the company. They might use fake pictures to attract a match if they are uncomfortable with their actual appearance. They might never intend to meet in real life, but the poor victims who fall for them under false pretenses end up wasting their time.

Financial Gain

But the most common reason for catfishing is financial gain. Most people aren’t simply satisfied with the company. They either pursue their victims with the intention of extorting them, or they realize over time that they can get money out of someone they’ve built a fake relationship with. 

There are also instances of organized catfishing where a group of people are set up under a leader or boss. The organization functions much like a call center, meaning multiple people might handle the same account. 

The goal is to get victims to send money or personal information that can be used to access victims’ accounts. Those who are convinced to send intimate photos of themselves can end up being blackmailed into paying.

How to Outsmart a Catfish: 7 Red Flags

Now that you know what catfishing is and that you definitely want to avoid it, here are 7 signs you should look out for.

1. They fall in love quickly.

If someone you are talking to online is quick to define the relationship or make promises of love, this could be a sign of a catfish. These people want to convince you that they are in love with and committed to you so that they build your trust as soon as possible. The quicker you fall in love, the sooner they can take advantage of you.

2. They seem too good to be true.

Catfishing only works if they can get someone to take the bait. Therefore, they will embellish their profile with fake pictures of themselves, travel, or assets. They might lie about their profession in order to gain your trust, going so far as to use the pictures of someone in uniform.

3. They are never short on compliments.

In addition to being quite a “catch”, they are also really into you. They are never short on compliments, kind words, and other ways of making you feel comfortable with them and coming back for more.

4. They troll free websites.

It doesn’t even have to be a dating site. Catfish can find you anywhere, whether it be a dating app, Facebook, LinkedIn, or any other platform where chat is open to the public. 

The point is that hard core catfish won’t pay to find victims. They don’t have to. There are plenty of free chat rooms online where catfish can find their victims.

5. They want to keep the relationship a secret.

A catfish will not want you to make your relationship public because they might already be in a relationship or they might be catfishing many people simultaneously. Announcing the relationship to family and friends also increases the chances that the catfish will be found out since there will be more people questioning the validity of the relationship and investigating.

6. They ask for money.

The person you are messaging and building a relationship with suddenly finds him or herself in hard times or in some debt. Maybe they or a family member needs a medical procedure that they can’t afford. Or, they experienced some tragedy like theft or fire or death of a loved one. Or, they really want to meet you, but they just don’t have the budget for travel.

These are all legitimate-sounding reasons to loan your online love interest some money. After all, they promised they are good for it….

7. They make excuses to not meet in person.

Unless you are dealing with a catfish who simply has low self-esteem and has duped you with fake photos into going on a date, a catfish will never meet you in person. It isn’t their intention to ever meet you.  

How to Outsmart a Catfish: 7 Strategies

Suspect you’ve been chatting with a catfish? Here are 7 strategies you can use to confirm or deny your suspicions. 

1. Run a Background Check

The first step is to conduct your own background check. See what information you can gather from a Google search. Can you find history on this person? Do they have other social media accounts you can use to confirm their identity? Can you confirm their profession or place of employment? 

While there is a wealth of information available for free online, there are gaps and outdated information. You might also come across sites that ask for payment, but before you go that route, you should just consider conducting a legitimate background check

All you need is a name and city or state if you have it. This can provide you with aliases, addresses, phone numbers, and date of birth. You can also get a criminal background check report with case details and dates, including the charge, probation, conviction, and sentence information when applicable.

2. Check Criminal Records

Background checks and criminal records checks aren’t reserved for outsmarting a catfish. You should consider these searches before meeting anyone for the first time or entering a serious relationship with someone. 

You can search over 200 million federal, state, and county criminal records with just a name and date of birth. This will tell you if someone has a felony or misdemeanor offense record. A criminal records search can also provide critical information about a person with a history of sexual offense records including age, race, eye and hair color, weight, and height when available.

3. Search Marriage and Divorce Records

People lie about their marriage and divorce records all the time. They might be afraid of being judged for having had one or more divorces, or they might be dating behind their spouse’s back. 

To verify whether or not someone is being honest, you can search marriage and divorce records in a number of states with just the subject’s name. Marriage record results typically include bride and groom names, ages, and county and date of marriage. Divorce records generally show petitioner and respondent names, county of divorce, and date of divorce.

4. Lookup Phone Number

If you have moved beyond online chatting and have exchanged phone numbers, you can conduct a reverse phone lookup to find out who it belongs to. You might find that the number you received doesn’t match the name of the individual you’ve been talking to!

5. Verify Location

If you want to verify someone’s location, find an article or other link they wouldn’t find suspicious. Paste the link into IP Logger to get a new link for the article. Then, send that new link to the individual. When they open it, their location pings, and you can track it in the IP Logger!

6. Reverse Image Search

Suspect someone might be using stolen or stock photos for their profile? Double check by conducting a reverse image search. Just upload an image from your Photo Library, iCloud, Dropbox, or Google Drive. You can easily do a reverse image search from your desktop computer or mobile device. 

7. Hire a Private Investigator

Finally, if all else fails or you really want to know who someone is before bringing them into your life, you can hire an investigator. A comprehensive background check can help you avoid scams, predators, and criminals.

Other searches and investigations might tell you about a person’s current information, but a comprehensive background check can help you understand someone’s past. What secrets might someone be keeping from you?

How to Outsmart a Catfish: 5 Steps to Report a Catfish

Once you’ve caught someone in a lie and are sure they are trying to take advantage of you, here’s what you can do next:

1. Report Social Media Profile

2. Gather Evidence

3. Send Evidence to the Catfish

4. Block the Catfish

5. Alert the Proper Authorities

First, report any social media profiles. They might have hijacked someone else’s or created a fake one for their scam. Then gather evidence from your own investigation or from any of the reports you might run. 

You can send this evidence to the catfish and confront them if you want. This can help keep them from contacting you again or just serve as personal satisfaction. Just be careful not to fall for any attempts they might make to explain themselves or threaten you. 

For your safety and peace of mind, block the catfish so that you can move on with your life and so that the individual cannot continue to try to gather information about you. Finally, alert the proper authorities. Chances are, you aren’t the only victim.


The online world can be scary. It’s difficult to be sure you know exactly who you’re dealing with. The most important things you can do are be aware of red flags, never send money to strangers, and never provide sensitive information online.

Now that you know the many tools and resources available to you, you know how to outsmart a catfish. Share this with your friends and family and help reduce the number of victims of catfish scams!