We are all looking for love, and technology has made it easier for us to connect with people all around the world. We have heard stories of people who have met online and gone ahead to get married and start families. Unfortunately, those who have been unlucky and ended up conned and lost their possessions and/or ended up emotionally damaged are also many. You may have read the story of Sam in The Making Of A Conman Catfish: The Beginning.
Recently, BBC News ran an article highlighting a UK campaign by an organisation called Date Safe that suggested that online dating conmen, commonly known as catfishes could be buying love letter templates and using them to dupe innocent victims. A further search on this matter led me to the website that was the genesis of the BBC News article.
The catfish starter pack is mainly sold to Russian hackers and includes stock phrases that would be similar to writing prompts like the one used in primary school compositions to sweet talk the victim. The pack also includes pictures of men and women which are sourced from other dating sites and social media. The people whose pictures are used usually have no idea that they are part of this elaborate scheme.
For the seasoned conman, outsourcing a criminal call centre is all in day’s work. The call centres hire men and women fluent in different languages who would lend their voices to the fake personas created. This is mostly used as a measure of last resort as it’s is expensive and used when the lack of voice communication could sabotage their con.
Some of the red flags to spot in order to know when you are dealing with a catfish could include their aversion to talking on the telephone, usually preferring emails or online chats. They ask for money frequently and in large amounts which is usually the biggest sign. Most catfishes also rope you in emotionally by divulging ‘personal experiences’ early on, in order to make you feel special. They make you feel like they’ve let you into the deepest part of their lives where no one has been before and once this false sense of connection has been established, the victim easily lets their guard down and will easily volunteer personal information.
The art of the con is one of the oldest trades in the world. Countries such as Nigeria have been infamously known for this with the ‘Yahoo boys’ scammers’. Kenya has however not been spared having our very own famous catfish in the form of Lexi Dash which was a fake account and has since been suspended on Twitter. The pictures used by the Lexi Dash account belonged to a twitter user living in North America as detailed in a poem by sherriflady.
So while we look for love in the DMs, on dating sites and Facebook, one should be careful and as with most things, taking it with a grain of salt never hurts. Fact check everything, do online searches of the pictures sent or posted on their websites and if they never want to talk on the phone, constantly make excuses as to why you cannot meet, are always stranded in awkward situations and require money to bail out, then you have probably hooked yourself a catfish in your search through the sea of love.