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Catfishing, Scamming, and Cyberbullying: How to Navigate Online Communication

digital safety May 17, 2022

There are many risks when it comes to online communication and engagement, including catfishing, scamming, and cyberbullying. Whether it’s through Instagram, TikTok, or Twitter, these platforms make it easy for strangers to reach out to you and begin a conversation. By becoming aware of the ways in which bad actors use social media to take advantage of other people, you can learn how to protect yourself. 

 

Catfishing

Getting catfished is frustrating and humiliating. Catfishing is when someone is lured into a relationship by means of a fictional persona. This often, if not always, happens online. There are some red flags and things you should look out for:

  1. Check to see if the profile is new and how many friends or followers they have. Very few followers can indicate a fake account or bot profile. 
  2. Notice what kind of photos they use. If they are not active and only use stock images, that can mean they've used fake photos on their account. To check if the photos are taken off of the internet, you can do a reverse photo search. If their story doesn't seem to add up or they are hesitant to meet you in person, that is a sign that they are not as they claim to be. 
  3. The most foolproof way to avoid being catfished is to only accept friend requests or follows from people you know in real life.

 

Scamming

Scammers have been around since the dawn of time. There’s always someone who wants what others have and is willing to scheme to get their hands on it—the internet has just made it easier. While scammers are constantly trying to improve their scamming tactics, there are a few evergreen ways to detect a scammer:

  1. Like catfishers, scammers have light online histories, fake photos, and often a bunch of numbers in their username. 
  2. They send you lots of links. Don’t open links or attachments from people you don’t know as this can lead to viruses or ransomware that take over your accounts, phone, or computer. 
  3. Next, scammers try to build trust with you, they will try to develop an emotional connection, and they will inquire about your personal information. They will ask you for something and then promise something in return. For example, they will promise to send you 500 dollars if you send them your banking information, but will actually use your banking information to steal money from you. 
  4. Scammers may also try to use scare tactics to get you to do what they want. They’ll claim to be the police, the IRS, or another type of government official. No one from the government will ever call you and ask for money. Official government communications are sent via email or physical mail. If it’s an email, verify that the email address is an official government address.

When dealing with scammers, the most important thing is to trust your gut; if something feels wrong, it most likely is. If it seems too good to be true then it is too good to be true.

 

Cyberbullying

Dealing with cyberbullying is tough and can have an impact on your mental health. It can cause depression or anxiety and make you question your beliefs and morals. Here are some ways you can deal with cyberbullying: 

  1. Not responding immediately to comments/DMs can help immensely. This way, you are not reactive, and you have taken the time to think about what you want to say to keep the problem from escalating. 
  2. Next, screenshot the hate speech because the person might delete their comments/DMs if they feel they are going to get in trouble. Even if the comments/DMs are coming from fake accounts, it's still important to keep evidence. 
  3. In addition, you should block and report the accounts; platforms have these features for a reason, so don't be afraid to use them. 
  4. Lastly, try to check your social media less frequently or even take a social media break. This can make you feel better and less anxious or upset.

 

While there are dangers to communicating online, it can be an amazing place. Social media can help you develop your interests and build a community. It can be a creative outlet, a way to keep up with your friends and family, a place to learn new things, and so much more. Social media plays a huge role in how we stay informed and engaged with the world around us. We hope these tips help you keep your digital world a safe, positive, and enriching place. 


Want to learn more about digital safety and safe online communication? Follow our Instagram at #ICANHELP.

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