3 Signs You're Falling for a Catfish, According to 'Catfish' Host Nev Schulman

May 15th 2016

Online dating is a double-edged sword. While it provides a tremendous opportunity to meet interesting people you might not find IRL, it can also foster lying. Television personality Nev Schulman understands this reality. He famously documented his experience uncovering a deceptive online relationship in his 2010 documentary "Catfish," which ultimately inspired the MTV reality show with the same name.

For nearly four years, Schulman has traveled the country to broadcast stories about people who fall for catfish through online dating, and along the way, he has gained immense insight into how these situations unfold. ATTN: asked Schulman a few questions about what he has learned, so from the man whose film popularized the term 'catfish' through his documentary, here are some signs that the person you're communicating with online might be catfishing you.

1. It just seems too good to be true.

This is a simple but important thing to keep in mind when you're talking to someone online. A major indicator of deception is when someone claims to have a demanding career yet always finds time to correspond with you, Schulman said.

"If it seems too good to be true, it probably is," he told ATTN: via email. "In other words, if someone says they are a model with an amazing second career yet they have endless amounts of time to chat with you, a stranger on the internet, proceed with caution."

He said it's especially important to be wary of those who say they're models, as insecurities about appearance often lead people to catfish others:

"Someone saying they are a model is a definite red flag because it speaks to one of the main catfish motivations - insecurity about appearance - and it's pretty easy for a scam artist to find photos of models to post as their own."

A catfish usually has "the universal desire to be liked or accepted," Schulman added. This can prompt them to fabricate details about their lives.

"A fake profile is their response to insecurities about their appearance, sexuality, or a way to exert control during a period of change in their lives," he said. "You might be surprised how relatable it is."

2. They don't have many Facebook friends.

"Another sign is if a person has fewer than 100 friends on Facebook and doesn't tag their friends in photos," Schulman said. "That's a sign the pictures may have been taken off someone else's profile."

In fact, several women have written articles about how their social medias photos were stolen by catfish. Last year, a woman named Amelia Perrin revealed in a piece for The Tab that someone uploaded her Instagram photos to an account under a different name.

"Not only was she uploading my photos, but she was also captioning them with fake captions (e.g. titling a photo of me in Abu Dhabi 'Zante 2014') and then replying to compliments in the comments," Perrin wrote. "When I commented on the photos asking her to stop, she simply blocked me as well as all my friends who tried to do the same. Eventually, after threatening her via direct message, she changed her photos back to pictures of her (or, at least, a girl who isn’t me)."

Perrin has since learned to do a reverse Google image search to see if her images were used elsewhere on social media. Schulman has also conducted reverse Google image searches on his show when he's looking into potential catfish.

3. There's always a family emergency when you're about to meet.

"Something that we always see on the show is that a Catfish will conveniently have a car accident, cancer scare or death in the family when they are scheduled to meet up in person," Schulman said. "So if someone plays the sympathy card to get out of video chatting or meeting, watch out. In fact, these days, technology is so ubiquitous that someone should be able to immediately send you photos of themselves or get to a webcam."

Last year, a woman named Ellie Flynn wrote a VICE story about discovering that her photos were stolen by a catfish who always came up with outrageous excuses not to meet up in person. When Flynn learned that someone was catfished by a person who stole her photos, she sympathized with the individual who thought he was corresponding with her all along.

"He believed he was in love with her. I couldn't help but feel for him – though I did find it odd his suspicions hadn't been raised by the fact this cyber charlatan apparently had a family emergency to attend to literally every time they were due to meet."

How to overcome falling for a catfish.

While some people on the show "Catfish" continue dating after one of them was exposed as a catfish, some find it hard to move beyond this obstacle, Schulman said. The trust just isn't there.

"It's certainly a big hurdle to overcome a betrayal of trust like that. But we've had some amazing relationship success stories and even engagements from couples that have been on the show like Leuh and Justin, Laurena and Derek and Ashley and Mike (RIP)."

People who want to dodge catfish should research the person they communicate with online, Schulman said:

"Don't date online. Just kidding. Do a Google image search, look up their phone number, ask them specific questions about their lives (job, home, family), and if you don't have video chatting capabilities, ask them to hold up a specific object in a photo like a piece of paper with your name on it!"

RELATED: What People Lie Most About in Their Online Dating Profiles

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