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Is Catfishing Illegal? Here’s What You Need to Know and What You Can Do About It

Agnes W Linn
catfishing apps

The Internet has made it possible to meet the love of your life. In fact, it’s more common than you think, with 1 in 5 relationships now beginning with an online encounter. Unfortunately, the Internet has also made it possible to meet someone who can ruin your life in the worst ways possible.

We’re talking about catfishing, the process of creating a fake online identity to build an oftentimes romantic relationship and con someone out of money.

Think you know enough about catfishing online to not be a victim? That might be true. But if your children are on the Internet, they could very easily become a victim of catfishing.

If you YouTube catfishing, you’ll find a lot of cases that involve conning someone out of money. But predators can catfish teens with the intent to harm or abduct them.

Table Of Contents

Surprising Catfish Statistics That’ll Stop You in Your Tracks

is catfishing illegal
Is catfishing illegal? Predators don’t seem to think so. According to a recent study, 43% of men report they’ve been catfished, with 28% of women admitting to being a victim. That’s not surprising, considering that cybersecurity experts estimate that one in 10 social media profiles is fake.

The same survey discovered that victims were most commonly tricked into sending money or sexually explicit photographs. But perhaps the most surprising tidbit to come out of the survey was that some victims report being catfished more than once.

So, is catfishing a crime? While the act of catfishing online isn’t illegal (it’s not against the law to lie to someone), the acts performed while catfishing can in fact be criminal.

And regardless of whether any criminal act was performed, the consequences can be extremely concerning. Overall, the feeling that comes with being catfished can vary from laughing it off to being completely distraught:

  • 60% felt no harm was done
  • 25% felt humiliated
  • 20% found it funny
  • 13% felt heartbroken
  • 13% had serious emotional distress
  • 9% reported having mental health problems as a result
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Teens and Catfishing Online

Catfishing isn’t just something that adults need to worry about. Young teens are susceptible to catfish scams thanks to their social media openness.

Young adults tend to share a lot of information on social media, and their accounts tend to be open because, naturally, they want to make new friends.

Teens who don’t have a lot of friends, or those who desperately want a boyfriend or girlfriend, are easy targets — not just for scammers or predators, but for cyberbullies who just want to have some fun at another teen’s expense.

5 Signs You’re Being Catfished Online

If you’re wondering how to tell if someone is catfishing you or your teen online, it’s always good to go with your gut. But if you need a bit of guidance here (especially if you’ve been googling “what is catfishing on the internet” and have come up short), we’ve got 5 tips.

  1. Their photos look a little too professional. There’s nothing wrong with really good photos. After all, the latest iPhone lets you take some pretty exceptional photos with a nice blurred bokeh effect. But if all you can find in your new friend’s profile are professional photos that look like they’re right out of a magazine, you’re likely being catfished.
  2. They don’t want to meet in real life or via video chat. Yes, we know. It’s good practice not to meet strangers in public. But if you’re developing a friendship with someone and they refuse to meet up, particularly in a public venue, that’s a red flag. But we get it. Some people are just shy. So, what’s wrong with a quick FaceTime? If video chatting is out of the question, something’s wrong.
  3. They don’t have a lot of followers or friends. Not everyone is Mr. or Miss. Popularity. But someone with just a handful of friends or followers might be running a little low because they just aren’t real.
  4. They start asking you for money. You might have a big heart. You might be willing to lend anyone the shirt off your back. But if a complete stranger starts asking you to lend them a few bucks, that’s cause for concern. And you should be extra suspicious if their reason for needing the money seems a little too farfetched. Is it illegal to catfish someone? No. But it is illegal to scam them out of money? You bet.
  5. The relationship progresses a little too quickly. You should never rush into a relationship. And that’s especially good advice when the relationship is with someone trying to scam you out of money. If your new friend wants to spend a lot of online time together and take things to a new level a little too quickly, think twice.

The Top Catfishing Apps Used by Scammers

catfishing online

Now that you know what to look for, you need to know where to look. If you’re worried about your teen becoming a catfishing victim, it’s important that you know where the scammers and predators lurk.


People love to share pics on Instagram. And if you like someone’s pic, it’s easy to send them a friend request or a message to say hello. If your teen is on Instagram, they could become a target.


Any app with a focus on connecting people for sex or relationships is ripe with catfish con artists. Needless to say, catfishing on Tinder is a problem.

Open Chat Apps

Teens use all kinds of chat apps to meet new people, but many of these can easily be classified as catfishing apps. Parents should be especially concerned about apps where teens are encouraged to engage with strangers with similar interests. These strangers might not be who they say they are.

How to Protect Your Kids From Being Catfished

Catfishing taps into a person’s desire to feel wanted and be loved. By letting your teen know about the dangers of catfishing and explaining that people on the Internet aren’t necessarily who they say they are, you’ll build a good foundation for your kids to stay safe.

But sometimes, explaining how to tell if someone is catfishing you isn’t enough. Some teens will go with their gut feeling, which steers them in the wrong direction. If you believe your teen might be susceptible to catfishing, consider installing a parental control app like mSpy.

mSpy lets you see exactly who your teen is chatting with, what they’re saying, what pictures they’re sharing, and more — all on the world’s most popular chat apps (including many that are popular with people into catfishing on social media). And it lets you do just that without them knowing.

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Agnes Linn was born into the family of an eloquent preacher (parish priest), with the inevitable passion for writing. She received classic education in Philosophy, as well as Modern Mass Media Management; married, mother of one kid.

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