For those of who you haven’t seen the documentary “Catfish,” the term is used to identify someone who creates multiple fake online personas in order to lure someone into a relationship. Some of these people are simply looking to scam you out of your cash. More disturbing are the ones who will create dozens of characters in order to play your heart just for kicks. Some of these insane people are quite clever, and will drag the fake relationship on for years simpl for one laugh at the end. Here are some of the oddest (and saddest) catfish tales ever:
10. Manti Te’o’s Fake Girlfriend
Most people have now heard of Manti Te’o’s story. His girlfriend died, and then it turned out that she wasn’t real. Everyone jumped to the conclusion that Te’o had scammed everyone, but the truth was much stranger. Te’o had been “catfished,” and believed fully that the girlfriend he had been talking to was exactly who “she” claimed to be. We put she in quotes because it turns out that Te’o’s girlfriend was actually a guy. The man behind the hoax claimed his reason for the deception stemmed from child sexual abuse. He also made clear that he didn’t want to hurt anyone, and never tried to get money out of the deal. When the hoaxer was asked about his sexuality he confessed that he wasn’t sure if he was gay or not.
9. Todd the European Soccer-Playing Troll
One Salon writer had her own catfish story, featuring a guy named Todd who seemed too good to be true from the start. He claimed to have played soccer in Europe, was a successful entrepreneur, and had pitched a reality show called “Topless Chef” that was already in the planning stages. As these stories often go, the physical dates kept being cancelled and, after investigating her new online “boyfriend,” she started to become suspicious. After telling her friends some of the more unbelievable parts, they laughed and had trouble believing that she had fallen for it at all.
After she confronted her fake boyfriend on the phone, he became extremely defensive and still continued contacting her and trying to set up dates. Still not entirely sure if she was being had, she continued attempting to meet with him, and investigated him further. She finally found a real Facebook photo of him, but learned that almost all of the details about him were untrue. After further research showed that her so-called boyfriend had several aliases, she decided that it was time to just call it quits on the guy. However, she had one last strange encounter where she saw him in a nearby checkout lane at the grocery store.
While the story Todd fed this woman may sound unbelievable, it’s fairly easy for people to get caught up in catfishing scams. Experts believe that people who are looking for love in their life can easily fall for these scams, being desperate and blinded by emotion. Remember, on the Internet nobody knows you’re a dog.
8. The Story of Debbie Best
Debbie Best was living in Montana, working hard and sometimes struggling to make ends meet. Like many people today, she decided to look for love on the Internet. She met a man named John, who told her he was an antiques dealer. The man talked to her on the phone and online for the better part of a year, learning all about her and earning her trust. Eventually, he claimed he needed help with money to the tune of $5000, but considering she had very little money, she declined. A real boyfriend would probably have understood and tried to get money another way, but Debbie’s online boyfriend only became more insistent, and suggested she find some way to borrow the money. Eventually she ended up caving and sent him $500, which is at least a lot less than what he had originally asked for.
As his pleas for money became more insistent and less kind, she did some research and realized she was dealing with a scammer. When she confronted him with proof, he boldly claimed that someone was impersonating him. The worst part is that he built this scam up over the course of six months to gain her trust, and became increasingly angry and demanding when he didn’t get the money he asked for.
7. 200K Fake Girlfriend Scam
This one might be one of the most amazing, in how it proves just how much love and affection can blind people. An Illinois man had been in an online relationship for well over two years, and through the course of the relationship had wired thousands of dollars numerous times to his “girlfriend” for various reasons.
The story started to take a turn for the strange when his girlfriend asked for money because she had been kidnapped in London. The man asked the police for help with the alleged kidnapping. The police questioned him, and quickly became suspicious of the man’s girlfriend. Apparently this hapless man had been wiring tons of money to bank accounts all over the world, and had never thought anything of it. Upon investigating, they found that the woman was not actually real and probably a Nigerian scammer. The scammer’s deception wasn’t even that clever — his photo was simply a stock driver’s license from the state of Florida. The man had trouble believing the truth about his cyber-girlfriend, as he had been utterly convinced she was a real woman who needed him.
6. Lori Drew
Lori Drew’s daughter had a falling out with her teenage friend Megan, and Mommy decided that the sanest way to react was pure vengeance. With the help of her daughter and a friend from work, Drew created a fake MySpace profile under the name “Josh Evans.” The plan was to use this account to create a fake relationship with Megan so they could screw with her head. Eventually, Drew had the fake boyfriend say horrible things to Megan, which is believed to have led directly to the girl’s suicide.
Due to legal technicalities, Drew essentially got off scot-free, ending up only with misdemeanor charges that were eventually thrown out. However, while the law may not have meted out much of a punishment, Drew and her family were basically run out of their neighborhood.
5. Facebook Fake Leads to Suicide
19-year-old Brandon Wentzell was like many young men his age — he did some drugs with friends, but he also had a wide social circle, and was doing well in school. He also had a girlfriend named Clarissa that he had met on the dating website Plenty Of Fish. His girlfriend sent him pictures, and even introduced him to her brother who was his own age, after which they quickly became (online) friends as well.
But things weren’t always easy for Brandon. His girlfriend had an angry ex-boyfriend who sent him threatening messages and, despite repeated commitments to meet in person, his girlfriend always ended up canceling. After a canceled date that Brandon had been really excited about, he became very depressed, drank a large amount of Vodka, and popped several pills. Unfortunately this drug overdose led to his death. After his death, it was discovered that his girlfriend’s brother and ex-boyfriend did not even exist, and that his girlfriend was not who she claimed to be.
When Brandon’s mother contacted his fake girlfriend immediately after his death, his girlfriend panicked and pretended to be her own mother. She claimed that her “daughter” had killed herself right after she found out Brandon had died. The desperate lie was clearly meant to avoid any legal trouble she might have faced for the deception she caused. Unfortunately, the only charges that were filed against this insane young woman were over her lying about her own death and causing a false investigation. It is hard to fathom what sort of demented mind would fake a relationship that included a fake mother, a fake brother, and a fake abusive ex-boyfriend all at the same time, but the world takes all kinds.
4. Brian Hile
Brian Hile had been enjoying an online relationship for years with a beautiful woman. After eventually realizing that his girlfriend had never been real, he decided to go for a very strange form of revenge. Instead of trying to find the person who had scammed him, he tracked down the woman in the photos, believing that she must have been in on it. To embark on this crazy vendetta, he had to drive all the way from Michigan to San Diego.
As it turns out, the woman was not involved in the hoax at all — her pictures had been stolen by a man from South Africa who had been playing Hile in a catfishing scam. Not only was Hile going after the wrong person, but his reaction was clearly unbalanced. When the police found him, he had zip ties, duct tape, and a grocery list featuring such necessities as weapons and knockout gas.
3. Catfished by Ex-Husband
A woman from St. Paul had recently gone through a nasty divorce, and was looking for love online to fill the void in her life. She met a man she seemed to have great chemistry with, and things were going well. She opened up to him, allowed him to see her on webcam, and told him all about the trouble she had with her ex-husband. The woman had an alleged physical altercation with her ex-husband, and was planning to get a protection order in court. When she confided this to her new boyfriend, he convinced her not to go through with the protective order.
It was shortly after that when things started to get a little weird. She started seeing her ex-husband pop up wherever she went, when the only person who should have known her movements was her new boyfriend. She investigated and found out that the new boyfriend she had been opening up to was actually her obsessive ex-husband. This time she went through with getting a protective order, and her ex-husband faces stalking charges for his criminally insane behavior.
2. The Woman Who Was a Man (And 20 Other People)
Paula Bonhomme found a man online who was a volunteer firefighter, and they quickly became close. She talked to him on the phone, through e-mail, and even sent letters the old-fashioned way, through the mail. She also talked over the phone to many of the people who knew him in person. Paula even sent her fake boyfriend and his family gifts to show her affection.
However, things started to unravel after plans were made for her to come to Colorado and live with him. The scammer decided that it was time to end things, most likely due to the difficult of keeping up a Catfishing scam in person. So of course the scammer called her up as one of his “friends,” and told her that he died. But wait, it gets creepier. Paula traveled to the home of her deceased lover and visited places that were important to him with one of his friends. She did this both to honor his memory and as a way to deal with her own grief. However, it turned out that the entire thing was a load of malarkey. None of the people she talked to on the phone were real, and the friend she visited the sites with was actually the person who had been scamming her the entire time.
This hoaxer’s scheme was so elaborate that it included 20 fake people. Paula soon became embroiled in a legal battle against the scammer. Unfortunately, the hoaxer’s home state of Illinois does not consider fraud in personal relationships to be illegal, and the state Supreme Court eventually dismissed the case.
1. Sebastian Pritchard-Jones
For the women who cyber-dated Sebastian Pritchard-Jones or any of his other characters, things seemed great for awhile. He always had real photos of himself doing normal things, and seemed quite handsome. He was a schoolteacher, and seemed to know exactly what women wanted. He would talk to them for hours on end, and lavish them with gifts.
However, all of the women who talked to him were ultimately frustrated — every time plans were made to meet, he found some excuse to cancel at the last minute. The entire strange saga started to unravel after a recently-missed date. To make up for backing out, he sent his girlfriend a perfume bottle with a note attached asking her why he would send perfume if he didn’t want to meet her. The man made the mistake of taking a picture of the perfume and sending the picture to the woman he had stood up. On closer inspection, his girlfriend noticed the reflection of a somewhat-overweight blond woman. After this, she began investigating further and many women started coming forward. It turned out all of these women were being conned by the same person, but it was actually a woman pretending to be a man.
The creepiest part is that this woman did not try to gain any monetary advantage whatsoever and, when finally confronted, simply acted guilty and refused to answer any questions. The entire sordid saga can be viewed here.