Once upon a time, I paid $5 for an online background check to confirm someone I matched with on Bumble who did not have any social media accounts was who they claimed they were. Spoiler alert: They weren’t. Hello, and welcome to my TED Talk. When someone says they don’t have any social media accounts,
they’re lying it’s time to put on your FBI hat and do literally everything you can (…within reason) to prove they’re really real.
Sure, there are a million legit reasons why someone might not use social media, and TBH, they’re living my dream. But who wants to get catfished, kittenfished, or lied to? Not you, if you’re reading this right now. Try these six expert-backed ways to confirm your match’s identity when they don’t use Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter like the rest of the universe.
1. Try A Reverse Image Search
Step 1: Screenshot a photo from your match’s dating app profile. Step 2:
Put my thing down, flip it and reverse search it.
“Conduct a ‘reverse image search’ to see if the photo is associated with any fake online accounts, alternative names, or other profiles and personalities that just don’t add up,” says Edward J. Ajaeb, private investigator based in Washington, DC and founder of licensed private detective agency Nighthawk Strategies. All you have to do is upload any photo of them to a site like Google Images, Bing, or TinEye and see what comes up.
“These search engines will scour the web for any visually similar images,” he explains, noting that “not every image on the web is indexed, so oftentimes you’ll find zero results.” But if there are 10 identical images and they all link out to articles about a celeb or feature another person’s name? Sorry, but they’re 100% using someone else’s photo.
2. Reverse Search Their Email Address
Let me preface this by saying I don’t know how you’re going to get your match’s email address if you can’t even find their Instagram. BUT if for some reason you happen to stumble upon it, throw it into a search engine. Licensed marriage and family therapist Caroline Madden, PhD’s clients have lucked out doing this in the past. “You can see if they’ve responded to comments online somewhere,” says Madden. After testing out this method and searching for my work email, I pulled up my website, social media profiles, and a bunch of author profiles. 10/10 highly recommend seeing what comes up for you, too.
3. Google Their Basic Information
It’s one thing to not have a TikTok or an Instagram. It’s another story to not have *ANY* presence on the internet. Like, not even a trace. That’s sus. So search for any basic biographical info they’ve already shared with you to see if they pop up anywhere on the WWW.
“Try searching his or her name along with their employer, school, or other notable details in Google,” says Ajaeb. He says combinations like this could bring up the “Meet The Team” page on their employer’s website or prove they played a sport or were on an honor roll at the school… or not. May the odds be ever in your favor.
4. Ask To Meet Virtually
day 1: I would never do a FaceTime date, ew
day 16: ok who wants to get married on Instagram live
— Betches (@betchesluvthis) April 1, 2020
According to Ajaeb, it’s always a smart idea to video chat with a match before meeting IRL.“A simple FaceTime call could help to verify that the person is who they say they are and helps to break the ice before any in-person encounter.” Plus, he adds, “the COVID-19 pandemic is a great reason to set up a socially distanced virtual meeting with your match before agreeing to meet in person.”
Personally, I just ask for the person’s Snapchat right out the gate because real-time video chatting with a stranger can be high pressure and awkward AF. But if you don’t use Snap, ask to FaceTime instead. If they reject your offer to video chat every time you ask, take a page out of Nev’s playbook and run.
5. Trust Your Gut
If something feels off, it probably is. Clinical psychologist Dr. Sabrina Romanoff says your gut instinct is your first line of defense, so trust it and use it to your advantage. “It’s important to listen to your instincts above any identity verification screening processes,” she says. “The unconscious is an infallible guide and compass when it comes to providing alerts to danger or hazard. You are your best tool in discerning the intentions and authenticity of others.” She warns if you experience strong feelings of doubt or concern about your match, don’t brush them off. “Listen to the cues your body is providing and do not settle on the artificial authentication of a search engine,” she adds. I mean, Google knows all, but your sixth sense might offer a lot more valuable insight.
6. Ask Your Match For More Information
If you’d rather not spend hours on the internet digging for dirt on some random human, skip the BS and just go straight to the source. Ajaeb says if/when something seems odd, don’t be afraid to ask your match what you want to know. “Digging up information on individuals with little to no social media presence can be challenging, since there’s a lack of information for proper cross-referencing,” he says. “Online dating should be a fun, but safe, experience for all parties involved. It’s important to keep communication open, ask questions, trust your instincts, and be patient during your online dating endeavors.” And if you don’t get a good vibe from them, NBD. Just keep swiping until you find a real person with an Instagram account who can DM you quality memes all day.
Images: Charles Deluvio / Unsplash; GIPHY (4); @betchesluvthis / Twitter
Pet Benatar once said “Love is a battlefield,” and I think the more modern and infinitely more accurate saying would be “Dating is a minefield.” There’s so much shit we have to watch out for: bad pickup lines, dudes who are still posing in their profile pictures with dead fish, Trump supporters, catfish. And now there’s a new dating horror story that’s apparently everywhere, if sites like the Daily Mail are truly representative of modern dating. It’s called kittenfishing, and before you ask what is kittenfishing, just know that it’s probably happened to you more than once.
Okay, so you know how catfishing is when you blatantly lie about who you are, what you look like, and basically everything about yourself so you can get someone to like you and then hopefully appear on an MTV show with Nev and Max? And you know how a kitten is a baby cat? Right, so kittenfishing is basically baby catfishing. Like, instead of stealing some Instagram thot’s pictures and passing them off as your own, maybe you use some old pictures from college when you were 10 pounds skinnier and had a fresh spring break tan. Or, say, you work at the Apple store hawking iPhones and tell people you work “in tech sales.” SPEAKING FOR A FRIEND.
Did a lightbulb just go off in your head because you’ve totally been kittenfished? Yeah, I know. Same. I feel like we all have one kittenfishing story. Ready? I’ll go first. So I meet this guy on Bumble, as one does. He seems like the full package. He’s cute—I mean, a little skinny for my taste but whatever I’m on Bumble, I’m not about to be picky. So yeah, he’s cute. He’s funny. He’s got a job, one that isn’t selling iPhones (if you can tell, I’m still a little bitter about that). He’s smart—I’m talking like ivy league smart. I give him my number. We’re texting. We’re vibing. He’s laughing at all my jokes and seems to be mildly impressed that I, a white girl in 2017, know a few things about rap music (remarkable, I know). We set up a date, and I’m thinking this is the one. I’m mentally introducing this guy to my parents, wondering if I should tell everyone we met on Bumble or just say we met at a bar when everyone will know the truth is we met on Bumble anyway?
But before I emotionally masturbate myself into my wedding dress, my common sense kicks in. “Wait a sec, Betchson,” I say to myself. “This guy is too good to be true. If he were really all that, he wouldn’t be on Bumble in the first place. You already stalked him on Instagram so you know he is who he says he is, but something’s got to be wrong with this picture.” I know, I’m ever the optimist. “What if he has like, a really bad haircut? Eh, I could live with that. Or—no, wait—he probably has a really weird voice. No—a face tat!” I laugh to myself at the idea of it—it’s just too ridiculous. “You crazy for this one,” I think to myself, because sometimes I think to myself in Jay Z’s ad libs.
So I get to the bar where I’m supposed to meet this guy. I’m sending a “here” text because I never like to show up early, but then I hear off in the distance, “Sgt. Olivia Betchson?” I almost don’t turn around because my name, my real name, is very common and also because it sounded to be a small child uttering it. “It can’t be” I think to myself. But I turn around anyway and IT’S HIM. My date. A full-grown man, exactly like in the pictures, but with the voice of Elmo. I immediately know it’s a wrap. I don’t know about you all, but I just could not fuck Mickey Mouse with a straight face. Part of me curses myself for having jokingly predicted this outcome, while part of me is smug that I was right, yet again. It’s a blessing and a curse, really.
(In this guy’s defense he was a perfectly nice dude except for the fact that one of the first things he said to me was to tell a story about how one time a girl showed up for a date who was heavier than her pictures and he literally pretended to be someone else and ran away. Seemed more than a little hypocritical, if you ask me.)
At the time, I asked my friends if “voice catfishing” was a thing. Now I know. I was a victim of kittenfishing, and if you think hard enough, you probably once were too. Comment below with your kittenfishing stories, and maybe I’ll feature the best ones in an article or something.