By Shantelle Canzanese, Dating Coach for Men

Catfishing became a household term in 2012 when the popular MTV show, ‘Catfish’ hit it big and continued to do so for 8 agonizing yet strangely intriguing seasons. What is with most of the human population being entertained by other people’s tragic love stories of deceit? It’s weirdly addicting much like those pimple popping shows I keep hearing about, but will never be able to stomach. Anyway, you would think the show would have caused these lying daters to stop in their tracks, since we publicly know their secrets now and their tactics, but the numbers have actually significantly grown since the show. Thanks MTV for giving these horrible tricksters new ideas!

Here are some fun facts for you that may or may not help you sleep peacefully at night. Did you know that 53% of catfishes are women, 24% pretend to be the opposite gender, and at least 10% of all online profiles are scammers of some sort? I know, I just lifted my jaw off the floor too as I wrote that. But in all seriousness, it can be entertaining to watch these scenarios play out on TV, but when you’re the victim of a real life catfish, it can be devastating, embarrassing and a waste of your precious time. I was a victim of just this years ago before the show aired and that catchy name was known worldwide. The scary part about my story, is that most catfish never have a plan to actually meet in person because then their jig would be up, but in my case, we did meet up for coffee and he was a completely different person than the guy I had been talking to online for three weeks. Thankful that we met in public, but not so thankful that I was deceived and spent a half an hour curling my hair that day.

Me being the curious person that I am and constantly wanting to dive deeper into the male psyche, I sat down with him and gave him five minutes to explain himself while I sat across the table and gave him the death stare. To make a long story short, it turned into an impromptu therapy sesh complete with tears, hugs and a promise to never do this to another woman again and to go home and take his sorry [email protected]# off of that dating site immediately. Now, by no means do I recommend sitting down with your catfish for a little heart to heart. In fact do the opposite. Turn around and run screaming for dramatic effect. Seriously though, do not stick around to entertain someone who has the time and know-how to manipulate innocent strangers into getting what they want. Your safety and well being always comes first.

So you never have to experience my unfortunate adventures, here are 12 ways to know that you’re being scammed by these savvy daters…

1: They don’t pick up any of your phone calls. Mostly because your online lover Brad is actually Brandy.

2: They come up with all sorts of excuses when you suggest a video chat. Why? Because they usually look totally opposite to that attractive person you thought you were planning a future with.

3: Their stories become more and more complicated and don’t seem to add up.

4: They don’t have many followers on social media, or friends on Facebook. Creating new accounts and building a community can be exhausting, so why do it if you’re only looking to deceive one lucky person right?

5: All of their Instagram photos were posted on the same day, or within a couple of days. That’s what we call a lazy catfish folks.

6: All their photos look like they’re a model or a professional performer of some sort. I mean, if you’re going to choose an identity to steal, why not be studly Giuseppe from Italy instead of Joe from the corner gas station?

7: Instead of sending selfies in the moment they always send you photos from their neatly curated catfish gallery.

8: They come up with all sorts of reasons why they can’t meet up this week. “So sorry Susan, but my cat puked on the Parisian rug my mother gifted to me last Christmas and it needs immediate attention”.

9: Your close friends and family seem suspicious when you talk about your new online interest. Their spidey senses are usually right btw.

10: Their photos show up in a reverse google image search. You can thank Schulman and Joseph for that juicy tidbit of information.

11: They ask you for money. As if manipulating you wasn’t enough, now they want to watch Disney Plus on your dime?

12: Your gut is telling you that something just isn’t right. We were giving intuition for a reason, now put it to good use.

The good thing is that there are several things you can do today to avoid this situation, or put a stop to a current one. You can submit an image on catfish related websites, you can become one of the characters on CSI and do the detective work yourself, or you can notify the authorities if you feel the situation has become threatening. Keeping the tips above in mind and using the technology that we have today, should keep you catfish free for life!