What is Cat Phishing

Note: No cats were hurt in the creation of this article!

Phishing is where scammers send out mass emails or texts or use automated phone call systems to contact very large numbers of people, claiming  to be from a well-known organisation. Their  intention is to con people into giving up confidential information such as login and password, credit card details, bank accounts etc.

Spear Phishing is a form of phishing where the scammers try to steal confidential information from specific targets. These may be at one company or other organisation or otherwise form a group that can be targeted in this way.

The scammers collect information on their targets e.g. personal details such as their address, list of friends and contacts, employer, locations they frequent, shops they visit, utility providers of electricity, gas etc.

The attackers then pretend to be from an organisation the target has dealings with and uses the information they have to convince the target of their validity to then acquire further information.

Cat Phishing is a more specialised form of Spear Phishing where an individual is targeted and the scammer creates a whole network of apparent contacts as part of a fake characters life. This kind of scam can take months to setup and operate and is only viable if the target possesses very valuable information that can be sold by the scammers e.g. for industrial espionage purposes.

Cat phishing is also used in romance scams on dating websites, where the information they gather before contacting the victim lets them set themselves up as the perfect partner.

Cat phishing is usually through online dating websites and social media and is becoming more of a problem as more of our lives are online – it’s easier for someone to be able to get a person’s details and fake an identity.

Once the attacker brings the victim into their confidence, she typically has a reason for needing money – for travel to meet in person, or has just been robbed or to pay medical bills or to cover an emergency.

Cat phishing can be emotionally damaging in romance scams when the victim finds out that the person they’ve fallen in love with doesn’t exist and the whole thing including their feelings are fake.

How to Spot Cat Phishing Attempts

  • A too good to be true situation. The contact is highly attractive and available
  • The person appears suddenly as if from nowhere.
  • He or she has excuses why they cannot phone or use Skype or Facetime (nothing that reveals their true face)
  • He or she gets serious too quickly
  • That request for money and a story to justify it is the clincher

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