Image: Helen Frost
With inflation surging and skyrocketing prices meaning some shoppers barely get change from $10 for a box of eggs, it's safe to say the global economy is well and truly screwed. One of the more unusual groups that have felt the sting is those with an interest in financial domination, a fetish involving people deriving pleasure from giving vast sums of money to online dommes. They don’t get to sleep with them and typically don’t even get to see them naked – the thrill lies solely in sending them cash.
Both dommes and submissives (known as “paypigs” or “finsubs” in the trade) told VICE that their kink has been flooded with scammers using photos of hot girls to fleece money out of people. Some dommes demand payment from their clients before they will even interact with them, which means that the customers don’t get a chance to properly assess whether the girl they’re about to donate the contents of their bank account to is a genuine fin domme or opportunistic catfish. “I think as our economy has started to tank and things have become more expensive, some people just don’t have the money to feed that want, so scamming happens,” says Novva Noxx, a self-described “findom goddess” who advertises her services on Twitter, Facebook and Reddit. This con trick has almost no barrier to entry and can be carried out anonymously with relatively little effort. According to Nova, catfishing is now not only rife in the findom world but also on the increase. The problem has been exacerbated by the fact that submissive men also frequently attempt to scam financial dominatrices into interacting with them, meaning that some dommes are already reluctant to confirm their identity through live verification, which involves sending real-time videos over to prove that they’re the girl in the photo. “Guys can get off on the smallest things, even a verification video, so they don’t get that for free from me,” Novva tells me.
Dove Scarlet, a fin domme from the U.S. who finds most of her work via the phone-sex platform NiteFlirt, confirms that catfishing is becoming more commonplace, putting this down to the growing popularity of findom in general. “There’s a massive influx of new people trying to find their footing in the scene,” she says. “Sometimes these are catfish, sometimes they are uneducated about what the job entails. Both can lead to individuals being hurt.”You might think the scammers in a scene where the vast majority of those being sent money are female would also be mostly women, but according to Scarlet, this is not the case. She claims the perps are typically men who are jealous of women due to the perception that they can make money more easily through findom, and says that it’s even affected her ability to attract customers on other platforms like Twitter. “I’ve noticed that due to my [low] follower count, a lot are cautious and it’s slow to start with,” she tells me. “No one wants to follow you or engage because they aren’t sure you’re real but to get a large following they need to follow you first, so it can become a bit of an echo chamber that way.”What with paypigs clearly being aware of the possibility of being conned, it would be easy to assume that scammers need to be particularly wily to snare their prey. According to Joey, a former paypig who turned his hand to catfishing after being scammed himself, this isn’t the case. “It’s quite easy to catfish someone, assuming one is well-versed in the nuances of findom,” he explains. “That’s because one needs to know the triggers that arouse men.”
Joey knows these triggers all too well, having sent money to a well-known domme only for it to later be revealed that she was a catfish. “She talked a good game and had attractive pictures,” he says. “I sent her some money along with a lot of other guys. At some point another domme doxxed her by revealing her pictures on another website, which proved she wasn’t who she said she was.”Although he only lost several hundred dollars, the experience made him bitter at a scene he believed had wronged him. Like all the scam victims in this article, he’s speaking anonymously to protect his privacy. “There was a lot of easy money to be made and being a victim gave me an incentive to victimise others,” he tells me. He has conned $5,000 out of unsuspecting victims, but says he doesn’t feel guilty about it because they were none the wiser about him not being the woman in the photos. Joey believes provided a high-quality service even if he wasn’t a genuine domme. “I’ve talked to lots of dommes – both kinky and normal talk, so I emulated them,” he explains. According to Joey, he’s also merely one of a large number of scammers; he believes that there are now as many catfish offering findom services as there are legitimate dommes. This may be due to the fact that while it can be tricky to extract money from veteran punters, it’s substantially easier to trick newbies.
Sociologist and criminal-justice expert Professor Keith Durkin has studied both findom and online fraud, and claims that newcomers’ lack of experience makes them far less likely to spot a scam. “I don’t think it would take an encyclopaedic knowledge of money slavery to scam the new members,” he says.That may be broadly true, but even seasoned pay pigs can still succumb to catfishing during a moment of weakness. This happened to Mark, a tech worker from London in his late 20s. He’s what fin dommes refer to as a “whale”– the big spender they dream of dominating. He sent $12,400-worth of donations to a domme called Gabby he met through the anonymous social media app Whisper in the months leading up to December 2021, only to later perform a reverse-image search for her photo and discover that it was in fact a picture belonged to a completely different girl. “I made a series of very costly assumptions about Gabby when I first met her that meant I put my guard down when I shouldn’t have, and I'm usually the one who spots scams for other people!” Mark tells me. “What makes this really challenging is that I had some of the most intense findom experiences of my life with her, and since then, other find dommes haven't even come close to the things I felt with her.”“Gabby” made Mark install software on his mobile phone that provided her with remote access to his CashApp. “She’d type in a sum she wanted, then message me asking if I was sure I want to give her that much,” he explains. “I'd say ‘that's a lot more than I budgeted’ but she'd then make me edge and stroke and make me cave in to her demands.”Mark still views the revelation that he’d shared these sessions with a catfish rather than a genuine domme as a traumatic event that damaged his relationships with others, even outside the world of findom. “It took me a while to get over it and it hurt some of the few friendships I have with people in real life because I developed trust issues,” he says. “At the end of the day, it was more emotional hurt than financial hurt.”Mark’s case hammers home the fact that there are real victims to this scam and, like any type of fraud, it can leave them feeling disillusioned and betrayed. “I’m fortunate that I'm a well-paid individual, so the financial loss was something I could stomach,” he tells me. ”But no amount of money can heal the emotional hurt I experienced.”