Five ways to not get catfished by someone pretending to be Justin Bieber

Male singer guitarist on stage at concert
I am really excited to welcome our new Youth Advisor, Silje, to the eSafety team! Silje is a whip-smart, creative and generally impressive young woman—she’ll be keeping the Office abreast of technology trends impacting young Australians and will help us connect with them on important online issues. Silje will be writing a series of insightful blogs about youth issues and will spearhead our upcoming Snapchat account, crowd sourcing young people’s perspectives on the online world. I hope you enjoy her musings as much as we do! Julie Inman Grant

When we talk about catfishing, we’re not talking about some freshwater fish—we’re talking about how people can pretend to be someone else online and reel you in to believing that they are another person—like a 42 year old man pretending he’s Justin Bieber.

Stories of people being catfished have become more and more common, but hey, we’re smarter than that, right? So here are five ways to catch the wolves in sheep’s clothing and stay a step ahead of the game.

  1. Trust your gut
    If it sounds too good to be true, chances are you’re probably right. I’d always be on my guard if a random contacted me out of the blue. Just like you would be in real life if someone stopped you on the street. Try and read how they talk to you. Do you think they’re real, for example? If you feel unsure about what your gut is telling you, then talk to someone you trust.
  2. Check them out
    Verify their picture using Google image search, if the photo is connected to lots of different names or is literally the picture of an actor or celebrity, things might be a bit fishy.
    Check them out on other social media sites. Nobody these days has no online presence so take on that detective character you’ve always wanted to be and find some solid evidence. Facebook is useful for determining if people are real or not. If they have a low friend count that is a giveaway—catfishers usually don’t have time to boost the amount of friends to make their account seem real. You can bet it’s a fake if they’ve barely posted anything or don’t have any tagged photos. If they’re claiming to be a celeb, look for the blue tick next to their profile.
  3. Ask for proof
    Get them to send a photo or ask to call them. If you call them keep your number on blocked, just in case, and try and hear if their voice matches their photo. If they keep avoiding your requests or repeatedly say they’re too busy, you could safely guess there is a reason for it and it’s likely they’re not who they’re saying they are online.
  4. And think about the risks of sending nudes…
    Be wary of people who only want you to send pictures of yourself, especially nude ones. Definitely refrain from really telling them anything too personal until you are 100 per cent sure they are who they say they are. When in doubt, hold back, be sceptical of the stories they tell. Don’t EVER do anything you are uncomfortable with, you never have to do anything you don’t want to do.
  5. Report the account
    Tell your friends and have a laugh but then report those fishes to the authorities, so they can take those bad ones out of the sea. Most, if not all, social media websites will have tools that allow you to report fake accounts and impersonation. Most of the time catfishing is a little embarrassing and kind of funny. BUT, if you feel like things are getting serious and you feel like this random person is sending material that is cyberbullying—you can take some screen shots and report it, first to the social media service on which it appeared, then to the eSafety Office if it’s not resolved within 48 hours.

It is true that so many young people use online networks to meet new friends and seek out romantic relationships. We all wish Bieber would one day slide into our DMs, we can dream, but the likelihood it would ever REALLY be him, is slim. Always be on guard for those sneaky catfishes when you talk to people you haven’t met before. Don’t be embarrassed if it happens to you—you’re not alone! Just learn from your mistakes and pass on your wisdom to a friend.

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