Now that we’ve discussed Catfishing as a scam, let’s go into further detail regarding the motives. Like any scam, there must be some benefit to the scammer. This benefit is the primary motive for anyone to commit a catfishing scam. Previously, we mentioned that among other things, the perpetrator may ask for photographs, or for some information to “verify” a person’s age, or to enable their transportation to be “closer” to their target. So, what are the major risks to these actions? What exactly does a catfishing perpetrator want to get from a victim? How might the information provided be used against you?
For Financial Information
The more dangerous elements of catfishing tend to prompt for, as we discussed before, a financial component. This would include asking for money–to get transportation to the person’s location, clothing, or whatever reason the scammer may present–or for credit card information. In the case of the latter, this is usually done in conjunction with asking the individual to sign up through a different, new dating site compared to what the potential victim may be using, and generally to “verify” the age or identity of the person involved.
Naturally, in the case of the latter, there’s an obvious problem. By providing credit card information to an unknown third party for verification or to better “communicate” with the scammer, it opens further risk as the credit card information may be appropriated and used without the individual’s consent. This would constitute credit card fraud on the person, allowing them to make unauthorized charges with the card.
For Personal Information
The insidious parts of catfishing occur regarding personal information. Unlike financial information, personal information may be easier to get out of a person. Name, age, gender and location are among the first things that may be exposed with online dating, and can help any potential identity theft. This is due to those aspects being the base of any attempt to personally identify any individual.
In addition, certain bits of information can be likewise exposed through the development of trust by individuals. Given that individuals may use certain bits of personal information in securing their accounts, either as a password or an answer to security questions, any relationship of trust means that personal information will likely be exposed. Given the ever-mounting needs of security in passwords, this presents a challenge. Maliciously-minded scammers may use the cultivated connection with the victim to get this information and be better equipped to commit identity theft.
So, combined with the financial information through credit card verification on suspicious third-party websites, it enables the perpetrator to finalize the fraud.
“For the Lulz”
Finally, while it is less of a risk to the individual, there are those cases where catfishing is done primarily for the amusement of the scammer. In a comparatively tame example, there has been a British prankster persistently conning members of the current White House Administration into talking with him via email by impersonating other members of the administration, such as Jared Kushner. While his actions had certainly resulted in the exposure of private information and correspondences as a result, the motives have been tame compared to other catfishing events. If catfishing is done for this motive, while there may be embarrassment to the victim, the harm to the victim may be limited.
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