Online Dating: Are you talking to a "catfisher" (a fake)?

Becky Roehrs

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Image: Heart displayed in the middle of a broken windowImage by Mariana Anatoneag/Pixabay

I thought it’d be fun to lurk for a while on dating sites to see what they were like today.

  • I haven’t been in one in 15 years.
  • They had to have changed, right?

Did I ever find out how much the online dating world has boomed into big business!

And not all of it is legit.

In the past, I hadn’t found folks on online dating sites to be very sophisticated about their intentions.

  • During my last go-around, I knew pretty quickly if a guy was married or crazy.
  • I strung along at least a couple of these losers who were trying to be unfaithful to their wives.
  • At the same time, they were also lying to me about their availability. I thought they deserved someone who would play the same nasty game with them, who was lying and using them.

Well, those guys were amateurs.

There have always been liars, cheats, and romantic scammers, but wow, their game has improved.

Catfishing Lures: The Setup

I spent one day adding myself to a popular online dating site.

Almost immediately, I got a message from “Wes,” who said there was someone afraid to get on the site because so many people lied!

This tentative soul wanted me to contact them by email.

  • "Wes” was leaving the dating site himself, canceling his account, as he’d found his “True Love.”
  • But being a good chum, he had let his buddy look around a bit using his id.

I’ve researched and found out that catfishers look for recent divorcees and widows/widowers, to hook them with an ok-to-good line.

  • But watch out; anyone can fall for their charms.
  • The catfisher leads their victim away from prying eyes and snares them with massive amounts of attention.

I thought “Wes” was making an odd request, but thought, “what’s the worst that can happen?”

  • Yes, I know, a lot could happen.
  • Like an idiot, I emailed this stranger and asked if he was a serial killer. I also asked what his story was, and to send pictures, of course.

“Ry” emailed back immediately and said he “wasn’t a serial killer, ha ha” (like he’d admit it?).

  • He gave me his sad-sack story about how his wife had died of cancer years ago and that his daughter was grown up.
  • Now he wanted to retire, but he was lonely.

“Ry” had sent a long, involved email, from an email address with his full name.

  • He shared all sorts of details about his hopes and dreams, and how he was a gentleman.
  • And oh, by the way, he asked where did I really live and what was my real age…since so many people lied about it!
  • And he sent a couple of pictures of himself, his daughter, and his mother-in-law.

Ok, I took the bait.

I emailed him back. I sent him my profile that I’d written up for the online dating site. And I told him how I had ended up on the site…so now he knew for sure that I was not dating anyone else.

The Catfisher Sets The Hook

“Ry” sent a very long email about his career, how he was getting ready to retire, and that he was a one-man woman.

  • And he said that he was tired of years of loneliness.
  • Then he described the kind of woman he was looking for…and he shared his phone number that he still had from Texas…and asked when was my birthday?

Fyi: If you want to steal someone’s identity, you need their full name, birthday, phone number, and location. There are a few more pieces of info that will really do you in if you share them, too. So, don’t!

Reeling In The Kill

Well, I shared my phone number, and then there was a flurry of texts and emails and calls.

  • “Ry” shared more photos.
  • And asked where I was from

But I’m not totally naive.

  • I looked for “Ry’s” name on the web in the city where he said he lived…nothing.
  • I looked up his daughter’s name…in area high schools, social media, the web..nothing.

Then I looked at the county property records around the area “Ry” lived in..but no one with that name owned a thing.

  • Then I went to social media.
  • I looked for the type of work he did in Linkedin, looked for him and his daughter in Facebook, Instagram..nothing.

It wasn’t adding up.

But Even With All That Research…

I told him the type of work I had done, but I didn’t tell him where I had worked, except for one place from years ago that employs thousands of employees.

  • Unfortunately, I told him about my family, so he knew how involved or not they were in my life.
  • But I didn’t say where my family had lived or do now.

I even sent him another picture and said, are you sure about this?

  • The pics I sent were headshots, nothing else.
  • But he knew more about my financial background since he now knew the types of jobs I had had…

Now, There Was Another Sign Something Was Wrong

When we talked on the phone, he had an accent, which could have been fake, but was probably Russian. He said he was German, and his parents were dead. Now he began questioning how often I saw other people by asking:

  • How did I usually spend my holidays?
  • How often was I in touch with my friends?

So he was finding out if anyone would ask questions…and how often…He also talked about his dreams for what a relationship could be like..and how much he valued honesty!

Then we shared where we had traveled, trips we’d taken..and he shared the qualities he thought made a good couple.

  • I found an article about what relationships should consist of, and it listed most of what “Ry” had said…he did his homework.
  • This guy must have a fantastic array of letters, texts, and scripts he uses..this was only a few days, and the communication was flying: morning, noon, and night!

The Kill

Now the email arrived saying this was it; his emotions were too strong; he’d been too lonely for too long…and I was like, wow!

But I also thought this was kind of nuts.

I did a reverse search on “Ry’s” pics and found “his” picture on Twitter.

The name associated with the Twitter account was different from” Ry’s.” It looks like “Ry” had stolen this man’s Twitter profile picture and a few other of his Twitter photos.

How Did I Know “Ry” Wasn’t The Guy On Twitter?

The guy on Twitter was a Houston man who was in jail for defrauding millions in a Ponzi scheme.

  • Maybe the jailbird was “Ry’s” hero?
  • I sent “Ry/Wes/?” an email and shared the Twitter profile link I had found with one word: “Why?”
  • “Ry” did send me back a text that made me laugh.

He asked, “how could someone have stolen my identity like that?”

The irony of the Catfisher complaining about his stolen identity was too much.

But so far, I’ve been lucky.

I read up on catfishing and read horror stories of people giving away everything they owned to these horrible people they were “in love with.”

But the Catfishers would never meet with them.

Did “Ry” Contact Me Again?

“Ry” called again the night I confronted him, but I let it ring.

I wanted to ask him what he was desperately trying to get…but I read online it was better to cut bait and move on.

Some people have chased after their Catfishers to other countries and have encountered violence. Catfishers do not like being caught.

But most victims never find out who the person was that stole their lives from them.

I learned a good lesson, and I was lucky to have only lost time and a bit of my dignity.

Hopefully, that will be all I lose.

But it was exhilarating.

I can see how even logical, responsible people can get caught up in the thrill of the chase.

I was just too hard-headed to really believe it. None of this added up..and I wanted to know the truth.

How To Avoid The Net

To avoid this in the future, here are some tips to help you avoid being captured by a fisherman/woman:

  • I listed above several easy ways someone can gather a lot of valuable info about you without you realizing it. Be careful what you share with a stranger.
  • Don’t get drawn away from a legitimate website like I did, to private emailing…wait before you move to private phone calls and texts.
  • Meet by webcam or in a public place as soon as you can. If they balk…walk away.
  • If it’s too good to be true, it is.

By the way, I have frozen my credit, just in case.

No one, not even I, can do much financially, with my accounts.

Now, be safe out there!

Epilogue

Not long after, I went to a different online dating site to see if this had been an isolated case.

  • Within a couple of days, I got almost the same email from someone who was “just leaving the site.”
  • But they had to send me their cousin’s email address..and could I contact this poor soul?

NO. NO. NO!

And before I could message the wretch a few choice words, HE BLOCKED ME.

I reported the account…

Next time, I’m grabbing the email address and reporting it too.

Remember, it’s them, not you, that are crazy.

Feel free to share your good, bad, and horror online dating stories!

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I write about local events, politics, education, relationships, online dating, and humor. Sarcastic and silly. Loves coffee and canoeing. I've been a computer programmer, outdoor guide, and taught programming at Fortune 500s and community colleges. Now, I help folks teach online.

Cary, NC
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