Informed Families Catalyst

Keep Your Kids From Taking Catfishers’ Bait

Posted by Informed Families on December 11, 2022 at 6:58 PM

The story was tragic. A former Virginia police officer drove nearly 3,000 miles to Riverside, California, to kidnap a teenage girl he had met online through “catfishing,” a type of online deception in which someone pretends to be someone else, especially to pursue fraudulent online romances.


Just after Thanksgiving, police received 911 calls from neighbors who reported a girl, apparently distressed, being forced into a car. When they arrived to investigate, they received calls of a house fire nearby. On investigating further, they found the bodies of the girl’s grandparents and mother inside. They reported the fire appeared to be intentionally set.

Eventually, police tracked the suspect’s car and managed to extract the girl before killing the suspect after he fired on them. She has been placed in protective custody.

Dramatic, but Otherwise Common

Although this incident captured the media’s attention because of the unusual circumstances, catfishing is not uncommon. After all, the tools that let us communicate so effectively also provide an almost limitless opportunity to conceal one’s identity. All it takes is a fake user name, a couple of appealing photos stolen off the web, and a knack for writing convincing fiction.

And because kids are naturally trusting (they haven’t had enough experience with deceit and betrayal), catfishing is more like a canned hunt: The victims are easy prey.

It’s hard to know how common this practice is, because victims often don’t want to report it for fear of embarrassment. But the FBI reported that in 2018 at least 18,000 people were victims of this particular type of fraud.

Talk to your kids, repeatedly

Again, this Riverside story was an extreme case, but catfishing—especially when it involves underage teens—can lead to serious threats to their safety.

“This is yet another horrific reminder of the predators existing online who prey on our children,” Riverside Police Chief Larry Gonzalez said in a news release.

“If you’re already had a conversation with your kids on how to be safe online and on social media, have it again,” he said. “If not, start it now to better protect them.”

Here are three websites that can provide the information you need to help keep them safe online.

The Organization for Social Media Safety ( (
Kids Health (

Topics: parenting, teenagers, teens, social media, valor

About Us

We teach people how to say no to drugs and how to make healthy choices. To reduce the demand for drugs, Informed Families has focused its efforts on educating and mobilizing the community, parents and young people in order to change attitudes. In this way we counteract the pressures in society that condone and promote drug and alcohol use and abuse. The organization educates thousands of families annually about how to stay drug and alcohol free through networking and a variety of programs and services .

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