Catfish isn't just a silly TV show, it's a real problem and a dangerous one

A few months ago, I watched an episode of Catfish on MTV. There was a marathon on, don’t judge me. I was absolutely beside myself watching these rubes. I actually thought, “Are people really this gullible”

First I had to know how the term catfish came to be.  I found this explanation:

“Let me tell you a story of the cod fish. At the turn of the century cod fish were in much demand on the east coast. News of this tasty fish spread across the country all the way to the west coast.

There was, however, a problem. How could they get the fish across the country and still keep it fresh? They tried to freeze the fish and send it by rail, the fastest means at the time. When it was prepared it turn out to be very mushy and lacked flavor.

Then someone decided to ship the fish live turning railroad cars into huge saltwater aquariums. When the cod fish arrived they were still alive but when they were prepared they were also still mushy and tasteless.

After studying the cod fish someone discovered that their natural enemy was the catfish. This time when the cod fish were but in the tanks they place a few catfish in with them. Those catfish chased the cod fish all the way across the country to the west coast.

This time when they were prepared they were flaky and had the same flavor as they did when they were caught fresh and prepared on the east coast. You see the catfish kept the cod from becoming stale. The catfish kept them fresh.”

I rarely use Google+, so when I received a message from a guy named Derrick (and because it was the first time that I’d received a message there) I responded out of curiosity. I knew something was fishy, pardon the pun, but I rolled with it to see what catfishing victims went through.

I asked how he found me, as we had no friends in common, and he said that he was looking at open profiles and mine caught his eye because I’m wearing a goofy straw hat in the photo. He said he lived in New York City and asked my marital status, if I had a boyfriend, and if I was willing to relocate. I knew he was a scammer, so I  tried to get him to talk and talk.  The more he said the worse it got.

He wanted to email so we started emailing. I then asked if we could Skype or talk on the phone. We exchanged handles and numbers. The only problem is that the sound wouldn’t work so I couldn’t hear him well. That left most communication to text messaging. And boy did he. Before he left for work, and again in the evening.  Sometimes during the day as well.

Catfish cyberstalker webThis went on for three weeks. I looked up links about catfish and found a link about the signs of cat fishing and, surprise, he fit every single one. I even asked him if he had a U.S. passport, thinking he wanted to find someone to marry to become a U.S. citizen.

So finally, one day, I get a text saying how he needed $6,000 because his daughter fell from a five story building and was in the hospital. This was exactly what I was waiting for. I told him that I just didn’t have the money. Haven’t heard from him since. Funny, that.

With the younger people on social networking, it seems like catfishing is done for revenge, bullying, and romance. Each case is different. Video chat or Skyping is usually when things change and the catfish will disappear. Some of these young adults have become extremely anxious and depressed, have committed suicide, or end up having a lot of social problems.

I get the catfish thing if someone is a con artist, trying to run a scam, but how young people can be so cruel boggles the mind. It has to be bad (not to mention prevalent) if there is a television show about this phenomenon, running on marathon constantly.

Then I read about older men and women who end up in long term online romances, and money becomes involved. I read about several situations involving widows, widowers, divorcees, and just single adults. Some of these victims lost thousands of dollars due to these schemes. Even the FBI has gotten involved.

Most of us worry about breaches with retailers and online merchants. But the catfish scam is a real threat. We mostly joke about email scams we receive, but many people fall for this, and it’s ruining their lives. That’s no joking matter.

During my research, I came across I gave Brad Alan a call and requested an interview. Mr. Alan specializes in cyber-crimes, scams, and finding out who is behind the online personalities that people fall in love with. He tries to recovery lost money, in some cases hundreds of thousands of dollars. These scams have been around for generations. The issue now, according to Mr. Alan, is that these scammers could even be funding terrorism with this money. Sobering.

The infiltration of terrorism these days can be right in your home, on your computer, from a cyber criminal you would never suspect, who proclaims to love you. This is an issue that is only going to grow and get worse. Indeed, it’s already an epidemic.

Just remember, Catfish doesn’t just mean a silly MTV show, or that someone is silly or stupid to fall victim to these scams. Treat someone you suspect to be a catfish like those cod did; keep swimming away from them.

Hi everyone! I am a prior litigation paralegal and graduate of the UCLA paralegal program. My undergraduate studies were at University of Nevada, Las Vegas majoring in Sociology and minoring in Business. Adding law heightened my analytical skills of legal issues, social issues and I worked on several high profile class action cases against BMW; Microsoft; General Motors; 24 Hour Fitness; Airborne vitamin supplement and several other class action cases that were litigated U.S. Federal Courts. I love writing about political and consumer protection issues and proud to be a contributor for


  1. So essentially, Michelle “catfished” a catfish……c’mon now, I get the specifics as to why she did it, but to pass judgment on a practice that she herself engaged in seems a tad bit hypocritical. I get the whole journalistic slant on her reasoning, but there again, the primary impetus isn’t always for financial gain, a great deal of the show deals with people being deceitful about who they are in terms of wanting other things as well. Mainly relationships, or sex, perhaps a litany of other wants, needs and desires but the subterfuge is the main culprit in my opinion.

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