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Take your time, research your potential date, and make an effort to think critically about their behavior.

If you use these techniques, you should be able to expose a catfish quickly - and that means you can move on to someone more deserving of your attention. Deciding whether your date is for real can be difficult, and even if you’ve done everything in your power to be sure the person you’ve met (or the person your son, daughter, or close friend has met) is genuine, doubts can remain. Our network of investigators is trained to investigate and uncover the real details of a potential catfisher, from true location and occupation to gender and age - whatever they might be claiming.

However, only 20 million male users ever bothered to check their Ashley Madison message box even once, and only 11 million male users ever engaged the website's chat function, even once.

Catfishes are notorious for their creativity in manipulation, deception, and fraud.

In another case, divorcée Suzanne Hardman, then 56, was defrauded of £170,000 by ‘James Richards’, a widower living in Portsmouth.

An investigation of the site's user database found that there were 31 million profiles for men.

According to police, such fraud increased by 16 per cent in 2014-15, with recorded losses of more than £33 million.

Judith Lathlean, a 67-year-old, Oxford-educated professor, made headlines in December last year when she courageously revealed how she had paid £140,000 to a man she met on a dating site (but never met face to face).

The men did this even though the company basically warned them that this was going to happen in the terms of service agreement.

Here's Newitz: "[T]here is a clause in the Ashley Madison terms of service that notes that 'some' people are using the site purely 'for entertainment' and that they are 'not seeking in person meetings with anyone they meet on the Service, but consider their communications with users and Members to be for their amusement.' The site stops short of saying these are fake people, but does admit that many profiles are for 'amusement only.'" But the true genius of the scam is that, as a friend of mine pointed out, once the men got wise to what Ashley Madison was doing, they had no recourse. They were going to risk public exposure by trying to go after the site for scamming them.

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