My Son is being Catfished

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Dear Hoopers,
Our 21 yr. old son is in the Army. He has a “girlfriend” he met online. Based on the limited information we know about this relationship, we have determined he is being “catfished.” We don’t think that he has ever actually met this person and he is sending this person money for her medical bills. How can we help him to understand he is being manipulated without causing resentment?
-My Son is being Catfished

Dear Catfished Parents,
Dating is hard enough as it is, much less when someone says that they are one thing but are really another. While the biggest catfish move is to lie about who you are and what you look like, people can catfish about many aspects of themselves including their location, job, age, etc. The ubiquity of facetime and skype has made catfishing about your identity and appearance much more difficult, but not impossible.

Given that he is in the military and may have been less available to meet someone in person or for video communication, he may have had a harder time verifying her identity. Also, if he is traveling with the Army or has less access to dating in his local area he may have been more emotionally vulnerable to a catfish.

Sending money to someone for their “medical bills,” sounds pretty scammy to me, but it is up to your son to make that choice.

-Dr. Ryan

I haven’t heard specifics about your catfish concerns, but since your son is 21 years old and you are his parents, I don’t believe that your job is to convince him. I just think it’s your job to express your genuine concern and to encourage him to do his diligence in getting to know her.

Sending money to someone for their “medical bills,” sounds pretty scammy to me, but it is up to your son to make that choice. Even just introducing your son to the concept of catfishing may help him to take the steps necessary to protect himself. Dating and romance can suspend our logical mind. Unless we are diligent in verifying someone’s story, we might suspend disbelief long enough to be hurt.
-Dr. Ryan

Dear Catfished Parents,
With such limited information it is hard to know much detail into the state of the relationship. However the fact your son is sending money to an assumed “catfish” or someone who has created a false online identity in the hopes of luring him into a romantic relationship or financially rewarding one is troublesome.

Have you shared your concerns with your son? By having an honest conversation, you may be able to discover if he has met this “girlfriend” and provide more insight into the relationship. This may either confirm or eliminate some of these suspicions. He stated that he was sending this person money. Big red flag. That certainly brings urgency to the situation. I would address this sooner than later and be prepared for him to get defensive. No one likes finding out they were made a fool or tricked, especially when it comes to love. Try to avoid using words like ‘manipulated’ or ‘tricked’, as they may be embarrassing for him.

All you can do is speak in love and with concern.


All you can do is speak in love and with concern. Ultimately your son has the final decision on how to proceed. If the person your son is talking to is truly a catfish, I suggest looking into some resources on what to do next or contact the Internet Crime Complaint Center to report fraud or cybercrimes. Let’s hope that is not the case and that she is just a nice real woman looking for help from her boyfriend.