Catfishing can be more than gathering the main course for your dinner. When someone catfishes you, they usually do so by creating a fake online identity, complete with a false alias and pictures. These criminals often target people looking for romance and defraud their victims out of money.

The FBI reported that these scams resulted in losses of over $230 million in 2016. No one likes having someone deceive them, but no one likes becoming a victim of fraud even more. Fortunately, the FBI has also conducted research on catfishing scams and identified ways for you to identify a con before it’s too late.

They seem too good to be true

Does the person’s profile picture and information seem a little too perfect? Your instincts may be on to something. Scammers will use the photos and information they know will attract the attention of their desired victim.

You can become your own private investigator by searching their name on other social media or dating websites. Google also allows you to reverse image search a photo that will help you identify if the person lifted the image from another profile or website.

Ask questions

Someone trying to pull off a scam will often try rushing you to send money, salacious photos of yourself or anything else that they could use to extort you later. A great way to slow someone down is to ask plenty of questions, which is what you would do trying to get to know any other prospective partner.

Asking questions allows you to get clarification on anything that may raise red flags. If their story still isn’t adding up or your questioning makes them unresponsive, your suspicions are likely correct.

Dont send strangers money

Once a scammer has received their money, they’ve reached their goal. These criminals are adept at gaining the trust of their victim by playing up their romantic feelings. However, it’s important to maintain a clear head when assessing if you should send them money or not.

If you’ve never met the person requesting money, you probably shouldn’t complete the request. Another signature of a catfishing scam is a person who continuously breaks plans to meet in person. You should have concern if you’ve been speaking to them for months and they’ve continued to find excuses not to meet.

How to protect yourself

South Carolinians are more fortunate than others when it comes to becoming victims of catfishing. If you become suspicious, you should cease all contact with a suspected catfish scammer. Notifying the authorities may also be a good idea. Continuing to communicate with this person could lead to becoming a victim of crimes like extortion or fraud. Catfishing is for the dinner table, not dating.