Impersonation, catfishing and identity theft
One of the great things about being online is how it allows us to experiment with elements of our identities and how we present ourselves. Unfortunately, this freedom can also be used to scam us.
Online dating apps allow the LGBTIQ+ community to connect and meet with like-minded people. However, there are some who use dating apps to trick others, often using fake profiles to steal money or identity information. Learn how to spot online scams, how to report fake accounts and how to protect yourself.
Impersonation and fake accounts
Impersonation is when a person creates an account or profile pretending to be someone else – they may even set one up that looks like it belongs to you. This may be done to embarrass you or damage your reputation. To have a fake account removed, take screenshots of the profile as evidence and report it through the app or online service. Do not send your own ID documents when reporting an impersonation account unless the app specifically asks you to. There are links to report accounts on most online services in The eSafety Guide.
‘A few months ago, I discovered that someone was impersonating me on Scruff by using my Instagram pictures to create a fake profile.’
‘Luckily, a friend had seen it and sent me the screenshots. I was so shocked – why would someone do this? And what were they saying online? What if people I know thought they were talking to me? I made a report to the platform to get the fake profile removed and my friends did the same. It took a few days for them to take it down. However, I found the whole experience very creepy and disturbing.’ – Nico*
Catfishing is when someone creates a false identity to build a relationship with someone, usually to scam them into giving away money or information. When you meet someone online it's important to make sure you can verify who they really are. Read more about how to check someone’s identity in Online chat. Find out more about dating and romance scams and how to deal with them.
‘During the first COVID lockdown I was talking to a woman on Tinder for quite a while.’
‘We were getting on great, so we swapped phone numbers and moved our conversation to WhatsApp. Pretty soon after, she started asking questions about my home, my work and my financial situation. Next, she was asking for money. This seemed like a red flag to me, and I stopped chatting with her. I thought she was really interested in me, but it was just a scam. I felt so embarrassed that I had been sucked in.’ – Aera*
Identity theft is when someone tries to steal your personally identifiable information, such as your name, date of birth or credit card details, in order to defraud you of money. Be careful about the personally identifiable information you disclose online, especially to someone you have just met. Remember, personal information from different online services could be pieced together and used to access your accounts or create others in your name. Learn more about how to spot a scam and what to do if you have experienced identity theft.
‘I was chatting with a hot guy on Grindr and he told me that he had been bashed after meeting someone online.’
‘He was keen to catch up but wanted me to give him a police background check to make sure he was going to be safe when we met. He sent me a link to a site that looked pretty legit, but it asked for your credit card details to cover the $1 fee. I had second thoughts, so I Googled the site and found out it was a known scam to steal credit card details. I can’t believe I nearly fell for it! Now I always google any website to double check.’ – Sam*
Learn about what to do if you are being threatened online.
Check our tips before you meet up with anyone offline.
*The personal stories quoted here are real accounts taken from eSafety's community engagement sessions, only the names have been changed.
All ages. Counselling and referral for people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer and/or intersex. Phone counselling available from 3pm to 12am, every day. Online chat available 3pm to 12am, every day.