Some would say the world is full of liars and fools and I guess to some extent, that’s true. There are the predators and the prey – those that spend their time looking to get over on somebody else and the poor, trusting souls who just want to hope for and believe in happy endings.

A friend and I got together for dinner one evening and halfway through, her phone buzzed. She quickly looked at the screen and the goofy smile on her face betrayed her instantly. “Who is he?” I asked. “We just started talking, so I don’t know much yet, but look how HOT this guy is!” and she thrust the phone in my face. He truly was beautiful. He had long dark, flowing hair, the perfect amount of stubble and dark, bedroom eyes that made you melt like butter on hot toast (think a darker, more rugged version of Fabio). “You know he’s probably not real, right?” I said. She nodded in agreement “but I’m just going to have a bit of fun talking to him for a few days until either the game runs its course or I discover I found the pot of gold at the end of the dating site rainbow!”

It’s called Catfishing: A fake or stolen online identity is created and used for the purposes of beginning a deceptive relationship. There was a movie about it and a TV show that followed the journey of couples that had “met” online but had never met in person. Two friends traveled around the country to expose the truth and tell the stories of these hopeful romantic partners. I don’t think I’ve ever seen an episode where the person actually was who they portrayed themselves to be. Some were simply much less attractive than their fictional, posted photos, one was married and a muscular young man who had been sweet-talking a young lady for months, was revealed to be a heavyset woman.

It’s an interesting term when you think about it. Catfish are bottom feeders and spend their time in the dark, murky depths. Devoid of scales, they feel incredibly slippery and slimy – a pretty good description of someone who takes advantage of others, toying with their emotions and using their loneliness as a tool to take advantage.

So how do you know when a profile is fake? You’re sifting through your dating site of choice and the vast majority of profiles are real guys – they have a ball cap on in every photo (probably accompanied by the shirt with the sleeves cut off), are 5’6” or under, have lots of dead fish, dead deer or bowling shots, or the too often seen selfies from underneath perfectly accentuating the double chin and giving you a clear view straight up their nose. Then, a beam of light shines down and you stumble upon someone who looks like they could be a model. The photos have you thinking, “Now THIS is what I’m talking about!” If they look too good to be true, they probably are.

Their profile, claims not to care how attractive you are or what your body type is, as they just want a “beautiful heart” – sure.

Their profile is very generic, designed to appeal to the largest number of women, so they’re tall, Christian, a non-smoker and looking for a committed relationship leading to marriage. They know what most women want to hear. They may portray themselves as having a flashy career or multiple degrees. Hmmmmmmm. They’re gorgeous, educated and accomplished, but they need this website to meet women?

As you begin to chat, you may find that they try to establish an overly familiar tone, using intimate language way too soon. You are “honey”,“beautiful” or “sweetheart” and you haven’t even met yet. By doing this, they quench that thirst for the sweet words and endearments you may not have heard for a  while, with the intention of making you lose yourself in those warm feelings.  If and when you do, the walls come down and they’re in.

Very often, they’ll claim to have their Masters or a PHD but the grammar, syntax and punctuation in their writing is terrible. You talk on the phone and they may have a thick accent. As in my friend’s case, the man said he grew up in Norway. When they spoke on the telephone the accent just didn’t sound right. She Googled what that accent should sound like and, sure enough, it just didn’t match.

Another good test is to ask to vid chat or meet for a cup of coffee. Most real men would like to cut to the chase and meet sooner rather than later so if there are always excuses as to why this just isn’t possible, you may have a slimy bottom feeder on your hands.

It’s also a good idea to search their photos online. It’s an easy way to find out if your new friend has pilfered his photos from some other unsuspecting attractive person or borrowed them from a menswear advertisement or some other source online. If every picture they send you is from a social media site, it’s a safe bet something’s fishy.

Sites like Instant Checkmate are helpful too. Type in their full name, their age and the city they live in and see what comes up.

The cherry on top, of course, is some sad story closely followed by a request for money . . . . a loan, of course!

So what do you do with a slimy catfish? You can do what any smart, southern lady would do: Put it out of its misery, fry it and serve it with buttermilk hush puppies and coleslaw.

Don’t ever give up on love, but don’t ever let anyone play you for a fool.









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