When Yaniv “Nev” Schulman agreed to allow his brother to make a documentary about his online dating experience, he couldn’t have known that the escapades that followed would eventually result in a new verb – catfishing. The documentary “Catfish” captures the moment in which Nev’s online love admits she was pretending to be someone else throughout their online romance.
When Nev went on to create the MTV series “Catfish: The TV Show,” it became clear that many and more of us have been deceived in our Internet romances, and the verb “catfishing” found its way into common vernacular. The word, of course, refers to the act of creating a false online persona in hopes of reeling in the object – or objects – of one’s desire.
Exactly how deceptive is the world of online dating? While most of the scammers on the MTV series were merely self-conscious young people who were afraid no one could actually love them, the most alarming catfish scams involve people who pose as interested daters in an attempt to wrangle money from the target of their feigned affections.
To avoid being scammed, online daters should stay vigilant. Before falling in love with someone you’ve never met, keep a watchful eye for facts that just don’t add up, a small amount of profile pictures or seemingly fake photos, and an overeager attitude toward creating intimacy. Often such scammers operate from foreign countries and have picked up English as a second language, so it’s a good idea to be wary of incorrect grammar or misspellings.
In 2011 alone, the FBI reports indicated that victims of catfishing lost $50.4 million to catfish ploys. There were 5,600 complaints filed with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, but the agency claims that losses were likely higher as many people are probably too embarrassed to file a complaint. Many of these catfish appear to be Russian; according to the U.S. Embassy to Russia, it receives a complaint each day from someone who has been catfished by a Russian national.
Catfishing is becoming a popular way to scam the lonely among us as online dating becomes something of a norm. Modern Americans spend a collective $500 million every year as they search for their great love. The crop of dating websites is growing still, and niche sites are attracting boatfuls of would-be daters; 20 million users check in with a dating site at least once a month.
In America, 10 percent of the population uses online dating services. eHarmony users have reached 20 million and 15 million daters have taken to Match.com. Of today’s couples, one in four met online somehow. Some dating sites are free, but not all, and users spend an average of $239 each year on site use alone. The online dating industry, on the other hand, makes a collective $1.049 billion each year.
It will surprise no one that people tend to put their best exaggerated face forward when they create their personal online dating profiles. A whopping 80 percent of online daters type little fibs into their profiles, with 16 percent claiming that they are better off than they actually are, 50 percent lying about their height and five percent lying about the car they drive. In spite of the stigma surrounding women and aging, it’s actually the men who lie about it more: 33 percent of men falsify their age, while only 17 percent of women do the same. Almost half of the male population gives a convoluted image of their career, generously heaping fake salary increases upon themselves. Interestingly, women were more likely to falsely demote themselves in their profiles.
Infographic Via: Instant Checkmate
Young Lee, a freelance writer, is passionate about education, health care, and technology. She tries to be active on twitter so please follow Young, @Onewooatatime.