The term catfish refers to someone who pretends to be someone they're not, using social media.
And from recent events and reality shows, the practice is getting more exposure.
“It happens, it happens all the time.” Troy University Professor Steve Padgett said.
Dr Steve Padgett teaches students at troy university about social media.
“We always tell people number one, you want to be careful of what you are saying.” Padgett said.
This is especially true if you form an on-line relationship with someone you don’t know, and have never met.
“The things I would be concerned about is the person actually who they say they are. It’s not uncommon for people to use a different photograph or even a different name.” Troy Dothan police chief Jim Smith says.
Troy-Dothan police Chief Jim Smith is an expert in on-line identity. He says the cat fishing phenomenon is more of a problem as on-line dating becomes more popular.
“We had an event that happened in this region in which a person was stalked after they tried to terminate the online relationship and it ended up in a homicide.” Smith says.
“It’s very easy to hide behind a keyboard when using social media. You can describe yourself anyway you want. “Padgett said.
But there are things you can do to avoid a situation like that or any other one.
Step one, make sure you see them, whether that's in person or on Skype.
“not meeting someone face to face sometimes it’s hard to judge their character what their intent is, and that’s concerning.” Smith said.
“It can be a good idea but you know they have to have a plan to meet up with each other to be safe because now a day’s people can be using fake profiles.” Troy Dothan student AJ Thomas said.
There’s one way to find out if the person you’re talking to is who they say they are. Find their picture, right click on the image and hit copy image location. Then go to Google images and paste the link. It’s here that you can find if that image has been used on any other site on the internet.
“If you can confirm it really is their name, a background check might be something you want to do prior to establishing any ongoing relationship.” Smith said.
Or, you can meet someone the old-fashioned way...
“Go up to them say hey how you doing? My name is such and such what your name is?” Thomas said.