In this dog-eat-dog digital hellscape, we often put our information, identities, and finances at risk. But oftentimes, in our yearning to connect with strangers across the globe, we often unwittingly leave vulnerable one of our most precious resources: our hearts.

The term “catfish” was introduced in the 2010 “documentary” of same name, but the concept it conveys – conning someone into believing you’re someone you aren’t via correspondence – has been around since the invention of papyrus.

But how do you, a humble social media user, prevent yourself from getting swooped in on by these knaves? Fear not. Here’s a quick checklist to make sure you’re not taken for an emotional ride.


Stay Frosty

You’re not in Kansas anymore. The internet isn’t your friend. More often than not, it’s actively trying to be your enemy. So leave that Pollyanna shit out of your web life. I’m not saying you need to put on a tinfoil hat of paranoia every time you check your Gmail, but conducting your online business with a healthy dose of skepticism (more so than you would IRL) is just a fundamental you should exercise at all times.

Lurk Hard

So you’ve made a connection and things are going well. You should have no apprehensions about stalking your new flame’s ass across the entire web. Once you have the basics like their name and location, a quick Google query should give you some insight into their world.

Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn profiles are a wonderful resource for verifying if someone truly does work at JPL or are, in fact, and employee of “Erryday I’m Hustling, Inc.”  And if someone has only 20 friends and one pic on Facebook, you can bet your ass they aren’t who they say they are.

Mix Up Your Communication Methods

No relationship, romantic or otherwise, can be considered as such if the foundation is only one medium of communication. Your crush insistent on sticking entirely to Kik? Red flad. Get them to text you or Facebook message you. Hell, it’s 2016. If you haven’t Skyped or Facetimed them, I don’t know what you’re doing with your life. How you gonna be falling for someone you’ve never seen moving about in real time?

What’s that excuse their giving you? Their internet is too slow for that? Tell them to STFU and get to a Starbucks. That hasn’t been a valid reason for not Facetiming since the tech was invented.


Never Give Them Money

This one is so crucial. After you meet and are the cutest real life couple in the world, feel free to lavish your new bae with gifts and make it rain Tubmans on them, but until that time, keep dollars out of your interactions. If they suddenly ask for help with rent or car trouble or plane tickets to you, bail, bail, BAIL. 99 times out of 100, this proposition is a scam. And that 1 time it’s in earnest? You don’t want to be with someone who is tactless and discourteous enough to put you in such an uncomfortable situation. If it’s already happening now, it’ll happen again.


Talk to Your People

It might be embarrassing, but if you’re about to take a major trip or do something bold in the pursuit of this new love interest, maybe open up about it to your closest friends and family and get a second opinion. If after hearing all the deets, they don’t have any concerns, then there’s no problem. But if they sense something’s amiss and save you from your twitterpated self, you’ll be happy they did once you’re less doe-eyed.


Be Willing to Burn it All

As trite as it is, the old axiom about there being plenty of fish in the sea has never been more true. With over 7 billion people out there, you don’t need to risk it all on one person, so be sure to have the conviction within you to light the whole relationship on fire if things suddenly go tits up.

Trust Your Gut

In the end, you know the situation at hand better than I, a friend, or any other interloper ever could. And if your own body and mind is firing all sorts of warning signals at you in the form of upset stomachs and cold sweats about this other person, you might want to listen to the best friend you’ve got: you.