The internet has allowed us to easily make connections with anyone anywhere in the world, and as social media grows, the opportunity for meeting new friends grows with it. While it may seem that the world is at your fingertips, things may not always be as they seem.

The slang term “catfish” was coined after the 2010 pseudo-documentary by the same name, which followed a young man’s online friendship with a woman who turned out to be very different from her online profile. “Catfish” refers to someone who creates a false profile or impersonates someone else online. The practice may be used for the humiliation of the victim, to emotionally distress them, intentionally upset them, or for financial gain, in which instance would be illegal, as that would constitute to fraud. With that being said, it’s important to know the signs to avoid becoming a victim of possible financial, friendship, or romantic scams.

When meeting new people online, whether it be for friendship or relationships, it’s easy to fall for a façade. Therefore, it’s always a good idea to research the person you’re chatting to. You can start by searching their name on social media sites to see if you can find any profiles that match up with the images you’ve seen of them, or if you can find any information that correlates with what they’ve told you during conversations. While you’re there, check if their posts have likes and comments from other profiles. Often, catfishes will create an entirely fake social media profile, but take no interest in having any actual engagement on that profile. Check to see how long the profile has been active, as catfish usually use brand new profiles.

As the saying goes: If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

If you suspect that your good-looking new friend is a little too good looking, you could always try and do a reverse image search. Websites like DupliChecker can be very useful when it comes to figuring out if your new friend is using someone else’s images. While we’re on the topic of photos, check to see the quality and quantity of photos on their profile. It’s normal to have more than just one photo of yourself on your profile, and if they all look like they’ve been professionally taken, you either have a model for a new friend, or your new friend has stolen the pictures off the internet.

When dealing with a catfish, there are often many red flags and warning signs to look out for:

Is your friendship or relationship escalating very quickly? Catfish will often come on very strong so that they can reel you in quickly. They may say that they feel very connected to you or are even falling in love with you after only a few conversations. They may even start asking you for money, supposedly so that they can come visit you.

A catfish will always avoid meeting you face-to-face. Whether it be a real-life meeting, or just a video or phone call. They come up with the most outlandish excuses that can often sound true, such as a lack of signal, or their phone’s camera is broken. If your attempts to meet face-to-face or through a video or phone call keep being denied, you may have caught a catfish.

Their stories don’t always add up. They will more than likely try to “woo” you with extravagant stories of travel experiences, famous friends, and past relationships; however, they don’t seem to add up. If something doesn’t make sense, ask about it.

Finally, trust your instincts. If your gut is telling you there’s something up with this person and they seem to be ticking a few too many “catfish list” boxes, trust yourself and let the connection go. It’s not worth the possibility of heartache or financial loss.