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Are you a victim of catfishing? Here's what you can do

As more and more victims of catfishing speak up online, the phenomenon has captured the attention of many people, especially the tech-savvy Millennials and Gen Z.

According to Naomi Fontanos, the Executive Director of GANDA Filipinas, a transwomen-led organization that fights for gender equality, catfishing is a form of systematic deception online where someone uses false information to project a fake persona.

But this phenomenon has already been happening even before the age of the internet, said Center for Women's Resources Executive Director Jojo Guan.

"Hindi siya bago," Guan said. "Kahit hindi pa uso online communication, uso 'yung pen pal, even sa letter, or phone pal."

Fontanos said that  catfishing is usually associated with financial scams. A person pretends to be someone else to get another person in a relationship with them and later on ask for monetary gifts.

"Studies say people catfish out of loneliness, because they are not physically attractive, for revenge," Fontanos said.

If you find yourself to be a victim of this horrible act, here's what you can do:

1. Seek help and talk to friends

Guan said that after falling prey to catfishing, it's best to seek counselling.

"Una, kailangan ng counselling kasi very devastating, kasi nagtiwala siya, na-inlove pa nga siya," she said.

She said it's also good for those victimized by catfishing to reach out to friends and talk to them to help ease what they are carrying.

2. Seek legal action

According to Atty. Clara Padilla, a gender rights lawyer and President of EnGendeRights, there are several legal measures that can address catfishing.

Perpetrators can be charged with unjust vexation or possible violation of the Cybercrime Prevention Act. 

Meanwhile, Guan said that there is no specific law yet that addresses catfishing.

"Ang pwede niyang tingnan 'yung Safe Spaces Act, 'yung bago," Guan added. "Wala siyang specific sa catfishing pero meron kasi siyang linya doon na sinasabi on online harassment."

3. Remind others to be cautious

Guan said that it's important that other people are reminded to be careful and be more discerning of people they meet online.

"Don't give away too much information lalo na 'yung personal," she said. "Maghanap ng danger signs. Halimbawa sa tagal ng pag-uusap, nanghihiram ng pera, 'yan ay isa ring ginagamit ng gustong manloko at magkita."

Aside from always being careful, Guan recommended that we all should set standards and expectations from friends or partners we may gain.

"Di dapat bumaba ng standard for friends. Ang target ay 'yung mga vulnerable, at alam nila na ito, gusto makahanap ng kaibigan. Expert scammers din [ang pinag-uusapan]," Guan added. --MGP, GMA News