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These Personality Types Are More Likely To Fall For A Catfish

Kelly Gonsalves
Contributing Sex & Relationships Editor
By Kelly Gonsalves
Contributing Sex & Relationships Editor
Kelly Gonsalves is a sex educator, relationship coach, and journalist. She received her journalism degree from Northwestern University, and her writings on sex, relationships, identity, and wellness have appeared at The Cut, Vice, Teen Vogue, Cosmopolitan, and elsewhere.
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May 20, 2020

If you've ever gone through the experience of looking for romantic partners on a dating app, you've probably encountered profiles that just screamed catfish—aka a fake profile, robot, or other type of scam. But research suggests some personality types are more likely than others to fall for a catfish.

Catfishing, aka online romantic fraud, is still alive and well these days. According to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, online romance scams reported to the FBI tripled between 2012 and 2016, and the Better Business Bureau reports that Americans have reported losses of nearly $1 billion due to romance scams. One company that screens profiles for dating companies told the BBB that 500,000 of the 3.5 million profiles it scans every month are fake.

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People at risk of getting catfished.

In a new review published last month in the Clinical Practice & Epidemiology in Mental Health journal, researchers culled the scientific literature to identify common trends in the types of people who tend to fall for catfishes. They found and analyzed 12 relevant studies. From these, they found that 63% of social media users report having been a victim of catfishing at least once.

These were the personality types most likely to fall for a catfish: 

  1. Romantics (aka people who tend to idealize romantic relationships and romance in general) 
  2. People high in neuroticism (aka anxious people or those who deal with a lot of negative feelings in general)
  3. Sensation-seeking people
  4. Impulsive people
  5. People with addictive personalities
  6. People with codependent tendencies
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Women and middle-aged people were also generally more likely to fall for catfishes than people of other genders and ages. 

What to do about it.

The personality traits listed above all have something in common: They're vulnerable to getting swept up in an exciting new romance easily.

"The scammer always acts empathetically and attempts to create the impression in the victim that the two are perfectly synced in their shared view of life," the researchers write in the paper on their findings. "The declarations of the scammer become increasingly affectionate and...a declaration of love is made within two weeks from initial contact."

So if you fall into any of the above categories, it doesn't hurt to make sure you take budding relationships slowly—and not just to avoid getting catfished! Rushing into relationships too quickly can generally be a recipe for disaster, exposing you to the risk of becoming emotionally dependent, getting attached to emotionally unavailable people, and other common relationship troubles.

In her book Love Skills, marriage therapist Linda Carroll, LMFT, recommends all people in the earlier honeymoon stage of their relationship avoid trusting only their heart.

"Beware of the fantasy of permanent bliss that this stage wraps you up in," she writes. "That spectacular spike in feel-good neurochemicals can overpower common sense. … Take time to step back and observe your emotions and behaviors; ask yourself whether they're objectively rational. Ask a trusted friend for a candid opinion about your relationship. Awareness is key."

Oh, and definitely don't send money to a person you met online that you've never met in person before. Good rule of thumb!

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Kelly Gonsalves
Kelly Gonsalves
Contributing Sex & Relationships Editor

Kelly Gonsalves is a multi-certified sex educator and relationship coach helping people figure out how to create dating and sex lives that actually feel good — more open, more optimistic, and more pleasurable. In addition to working with individuals in her private practice, Kelly serves as the Sex & Relationships Editor at mindbodygreen. She has a degree in journalism from Northwestern University, and she’s been trained and certified by leading sex and relationship institutions such as The Gottman Institute and Everyone Deserves Sex Ed, among others. Her work has been featured at The Cut, Vice, Teen Vogue, Cosmopolitan, and elsewhere.

With her warm, playful approach to coaching and facilitation, Kelly creates refreshingly candid spaces for processing and healing challenges around dating, sexuality, identity, body image, and relationships. She’s particularly enthusiastic about helping softhearted women get re-energized around the dating experience and find joy in the process of connecting with others. She believes relationships should be easy—and that, with room for self-reflection and the right toolkit, they can be.

You can stay in the loop about her latest programs, gatherings, and other projects through her newsletter: kellygonsalves.com/newsletter