Catfishing in Second Life – Part 1: How the Catfishers Do It
You have probably heard of the hit MTV show Catfish or watched the movie of the same name that inspired the show. According to the Urban Dictionary, Catfishing is “The phenomenon of internet predators that fabricate online identities and entire social circles to trick people into emotional/romantic relationships (over a long period of time)”.
I have had many friends in both real life and Second Life, as well as in other virtual worlds and on the Internet in general, who have been catfished. For this new series we will focus on catfishing in Second Life and what steps you can take in order to prevent being catfished and how you can move on after you have been the victim of this phenomenon.
The most prevalent and common form of catfishing in Second Life, involves relationship catfishing. Normally an innocent person is tricked and enticed into being in a relationship in Second Life, under fraudulent circumstances. These fraudulent circumstances often include the catfisher lying about their age, gender, Second Life or real life relationship status, or even sexual preferences.
Gaining Trust & Sympathy
You may ask yourself how you can find out if you are are being catfished into a relationship. Well follow the rule of thumb of, “if it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is”. Often catfishers will have sad stories of how they were duped in Second Life relationships themselves, this is often a ploy to get sympathy from you and for you to trust the person, after all why would a person lie about being tricked? The catfishers will often weave real life stories into the conversation and normally such stories are ordinary, not out of the way stories. These things are often done to gain even greater trust from you.
Often after a few weeks of listening to the other person and feeling sympathetic and spending time in Second Life with the person, you may find yourself dating the catfisher. So here you are in a Second Life relationship that is probably progressing at a normal pace. Normally flags will start to appear. For example, if the catfisher is lying about their age (being older or younger than they claim to be), they will either refuse to voice with you and say they wish to type only or they will claim to have children present or say that others are around and they cannot voice. This sounds pretty normal the first few times, but if you have gone months dating a person and they have not voiced with you, then this should be cause for alarm. Because the catfisher may not be lying about their age, they may be lying about their gender as well.
Catfishing Voice Tactics
Pretending to be the opposite gender, is also another well-known catfishing ruse. You have probably read all about American football player Manti Te’o, who was famously catfished last year, by a male pretending to a female. You may ask yourself how can someone not know they were talking to a male, instead of a female? This is quite simple, often catfishers will use voice changing software, or 3rd party software or they will play with their audio pitch and try to sound like a different gender. Voice morphing and changing does not just occur online, catfishers can easily purchase such apps on mobiles and use them or even use them on regular telephones. In Second Life, catfishers often purchase voice morphing to fool others. Voice changing and voice morphing apps also exist for popular instant messengers such as Skype, Yahoo, Google Voice, etc.
Catfishing Gender Swapping
Pretending to be the opposite gender is also another catfishing tactic. Often the catfisher will use voice morphing to pretend to be the opposite gender. In Second Life, it is quite easy for a person to pretend to be the opposite gender, it simply takes the buying of freebie items or a readily made avatar and the creation of an alt account and in an instant, Sally has become Sam and Adam has become April.
Normally the catfisher will once again often refuse to voice and go out of his or her way to prove they are the opposite gender in Second Life. Often by participating in stereotypical male or female activities in Second Life. If the catfisher is using voice morphing then he or she often will talk about doing stereotypical male and female activities in real life, to keep the ruse going.
Catfishing Relationship Lies
Another common catfishing tactic in Second Life, is to lie about one’s relationship status in either Second Life or real life. Expert catfishers often will have alts where they are dating or partnered with others in Second Life at the same time. Catfishers can accomplish this by logging on multiple Second Life clients at the same time or by simply pretending to crash or having a set time when they log into Second Life, in order to be with particular partners at different times of the day.
Sometimes a person may be fooled by a Second Life catfisher, who lies about being married or having a relationship in real life. As you only have the person’s word to go on, it is hard not to believe the person. Catfishers who deceive about their real life relationship status, often will not voice certain times of the day or may not offer many details about their real life and may simply focus on Second Life.
There are some of the most common catfishing tactics in Second Life. In our next installment, we will focus on how to prevent catfishing in Second Life.