Catfishing is a type of deceptive activity where a person creates a sock puppet social networking presence, or fake identity on a social network account, usually targeting a specific victim for abuse, deception or fraud. (not to be confused with catfisting- see below)
Catfishing is often employed for romance scams on dating websites. Catfishing may be used for financial gain, to compromise a victim in some way, or simply as a form of trolling or wish fulfillment.
Although some sources state that the modern term originated from the 2010 American documentary Catfish, the term has actually been around in the English language for decades. It was used in Arthur Crudup's "My Momma Don't Allow Me" back in 1944.
But Catfish, the documentary film directed by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman, definitely made the term common in popular culture.
The film follows a young man, Nev, who is being filmed by his brother and friend while he tries to build a romantic relationship with a young woman. Nev is using Facebook.
The film led to an MTV reality TV series, Catfish: The TV Show that centered on the lives of others who have been caught up in online relationships.
The focus of the film is Yaniv (Nev) Schulman who helps other people investigate possible catfish attempts and the motives behind the people who use fake identities to build relationships with online users
One unlikely origin for the term catfish is that fishermen would put sea catfish in with their catch of cod to nip at their tails and keep them active during overseas transport in order that the cod be fresher.
In the popular media, the case of the University of Notre Dame football star Manti Te'o in 2013, and the Rolling Stone article about a University of Virginia rape that turned out to be a hoax may have been an example of catfishing.
Catfisting (more commonly called noodling) may also be part of the origin of the catfishing con usage. This quite literal practice is fishing for catfish by using one's bare hands. It is more popular in the southern United States where catfish are more popular for eating and more common.
You put your hand inside a discovered catfish hole and wait for the aggressive catfish to grab hold of it, and then you pull it out of the water. Yes, it can be dangerous. I suppose there is a kind of deception in this technique. Do catfish think they have just grabbed some odd hand and arm fish?