With the premier of Catfish: the TV Show in Australia recently, Melburnians are starting to become aware of the catfish phenomenon, and our private investigators in Sydney/Melbourne are being asked, “What is catfishing, and how do I know if I’m being catfished?” So our detectives thought it was time to answer some questions.
The term “catfishing” and “catfished” has only been around since 2010 following the documentary Catfish and the popular spin-off TV show that has been airing in the US since 2011. However Australia hasn’t seen or heard much about the phenomenon. Nev Schulman coined the term while making his documentary about his online love affair with a girl called Megan, who he thought was single, gorgeous, and somewhere in her 20s, and ready for a relationship with him. When he went to meet her though, it turned out she was a 40-something married woman who was having some fun online.
Thus, the catfish: someone who purposely creates a fake online identity, often using Facebook as a primary medium, to develop online relationships and romances. The catfish is the deceiver, and if you’ve been catfished, you have fallen for the false identity.
When it premiered a few weeks ago, Catfish the TV Show caught the attention of our Sydney/Melbourne private detectives because it covers things private investigators are asked to deal with all the time. The show’s hosts, Nev and Max, do a lot of the kind of background research a private detective does at the start of a case.
However, our Sydney/Melbourne investigators have a few words of warning! While it’s definitely wise to do your own research on Facebook about someone you don’t know before you ‘Friend’ them, be careful of following the methods shown on the TV show.
The guys on Catfish have lots of interesting investigation techniques, and mention things like geotagging and Google image search. These methods are nothing new to private detectives, but through the show they’re publicising common investigation methods that mostly aren’t talked about – because the research is often the boring part. It’s the confrontation and the chase that make good TV. The real work of Sydney/Melbourne detectives and investigators is 2% excitement, 98% paperwork, research and time spent waiting for a lead to show.
A full understanding of Australian privacy laws is a must before you go following anyone and tracing phone numbers. If you have concerns, call a private detective Sydney/Melbourne before you start, and make sure you don’t get yourself in any trouble.
Rule: Video Doesn’t Lie (As Much)
There are early warning signs you can look out for so you don’t get catfished and don’t have to get detectives involved.
If you are thinking about online dating, you naturally want to know the truth about the identity of the people you’re meeting. Both physical and emotional security is at stake. If you have any suspicions about an individual, give a Sydney/Melbourne private investigator a quick call, and let them look into it. While 10 minutes online might find you answers if someone is a sloppy catfish, it often takes HOURS of research to come up with anything solid. Plus, you need to know what to look for, and that’s why professional investigators exist.
Catfishing happens over time. We’re not talking about Tinder here, where you meet someone in person shortly after making contact. One good thing about meeting up early on is that it leaves little room for a person to create a false identity. They can try to fake being a nice person, but that’s a lot harder to do face to face than it is online. So, ideally, SKYPE early on. See their face, hear their voice. It’s a little hard to lie about gender and age that way, even if they can still lie about other details.
Be most wary of people claiming not to be able to talk on the phone or via Skype, for whatever reasons. If you only want a text based relationship, then don’t worry. But if you want an actual relationship with a person, you want to know it’s actually the person you think it is. If they’re geographically distant and you have suspicions, consider hiring a private detective from their location to do a background check. For example, if you’re in the US and your online lover is in Sydney/Melbourne, a Sydney/Melbourne private detective can be a lot more help than anyone else in verifying a local’s identity. A little investigation now could save a lot of heartache later, not to mention money if you’re thinking of flying out to meet them!
Rule: Be Suspicious.
Investigators never forget this rule – it’s key to the detective process.
Detectives are a lot more suspicious than most people. Even though he’s doing a show about unmasking online identity fakers (catfish) Nev is still nothing like as suspicious as a real private investigator. There’s a great line in Episode 1 when Nev expresses his hopes about a budding relationship, and the cameraman Max asks, “How are you still this gullible and optimistic?” Nev looks embarrassed, but the simple truth is he’s a nice guy who wants to believe in people being able to find true love. Somehow, through it all, he still remains hopeful. We wish private investigators could be as optimistic, but that would compromise their work.
But hey, we need all kinds in the world, right? Sydney/Melbourne needs people like Nev to balance out all the cynical private detectives and investigators who run low on that faith… especially after string of cheating spouse investigations.
We’re glad Catfish the TV Show is finally airing in Sydney/Melbourne. It’s a nice balance of hope and suspiciousness – they’re amateur detectives who know the risks of online relationships, and know the ways people try to hide and lie, and yet they’re hoping that love will prevail.
Professional private investigators don’t tend to be that hopeful. They also don’t carry around a camera crew. There’s some discussion on forums about whether the show is scripted. Our Sydney/Melbourne investigators don’t really care about this. They care about whether our friends and clients are being catfished, and how a private detective can help them stay safe when online dating.
Comment below with any questions, and we’ll get back to you here or privately, depending on the sensitivity of the question.