For years, I have been into the show “Catfish” and crime shows such as “Dateline” and “48 Hours” that have investigated internet predators and people pretending to be someone they’re not online. The internet provides a safe haven for predators because of the anonymity of the internet, allowing people to present themselves however they please. This allows predators to prey among those that are vulnerable and want to trust.
According to FindLaw, “‘Catfishing’ refers to a scam where someone, the ‘catfish,’ creates a fictitious online identity and seeks out online relationships.” Most of the time the relationships are romantic, but they can also be friendships as well. Often the victims are left confused and heartbroken.
“Catfish: The TV Show” is a documentary featuring many online users questioning whether the person who they have been talking to online, is actually the person they present themselves as. In most cases, the person who they thought they were talking to, wasn’t that person. Sometimes they ended up being an overall different person with a list of different qualities such as gender and age. There have been 116 episodes filmed of ‘Catfishing’ and it is much more common than you realize.
There are many online predators that try to lure their victims in by acting like someone they should trust. According to an article on NBC News, a 29-year-old male tried to lure in a 13-year-old girl by talking with her on the internet. Fortunately, in this situation, it was a sting operation organized by law enforcement trying to catch predators like him, but unfortunately, it’s not always going to be a setup and children will become victims.
I found this quote by Melissa Morrow, Supervisory Special Agent FBI, Child Exploitation Squad, on Internet Safety 101, ”People who do not believe that their children could ever become victimized online are living in an unrealistic world. Regardless, if your child makes ‘As’ or not, that child has the potential to become victimized through online technologies. I think it is very important for parents of all socioeconomic status and with all different roles in society to take this problem very seriously.”
Don’t Talk to Strangers or Give Personal Information
Growing up, my parents always told me to never accept friend requests from people that I didn’t know, so I proceeded with caution when accepting friends. They also told me to never give out any personal information about myself, especially my address.
I remember using a chatroom on the Miley Cyrus website, where I could chat with people who were fans of Miley. The scary part of it all though is that I never really knew who I was talking to. Someone claiming to be a 13-year-old girl could possibly be a 50-year-old man, hiding behind the screen of his computer.
Proceed with Caution
It is important to realize that the internet is a gateway for people to hide behind their computers and to present themselves as someone they’re not. The internet can be a very dangerous place, and knowing not to provide personal information on social media platforms is important as well as not communicating with people who you do not personally know.