Local gal, “Julie,” met a guy through an online dating site two years ago. They emailed and texted for a couple of months. She thought she and “David” were falling in love, and when David asked if she had a friend he could set a friend of his up with, she gave David her friend “Betty’s” phone number, because she wanted Betty to be as happy as she was. David had “Ben” contact Betty almost immediately.
Both relationships seemed to hum along nicely, although the women were puzzled that the men (who lived a state away) never wanted to call them on the phone and made excuses to avoid arranging a visit. When Julie and Betty compared notes, they realized that David and Ben shared a phone number. When confronted, the texts from “both” men stopped. The women are convinced that one man was contacting them both. They’re just thankful nothing worse came from the event.
Julie and Betty were catfished, a term created for someone who creates false identities online to lure someone else into thinking he or she is someone different, usually more appealing, than he or she really is. The term comes from a recent movie and the MTV series named after the movie in which this type of fraudulent activity is investigated. In this case “David” may have been unattractive, or older than he said. He may have been married.
It happens more frequently that most like to believe. Another local woman, “Patty,” was excited to meet the lawyer she’d been talking with online. His profile photo showed a man about her age with quiet brown eyes. He was someone she could see taking home to visit her parents over the holidays, if all went well. That ought to quiet her mother who complained that Patty never dated nice men.
When Patty arrived at the arranged coffee shop meeting, however, her prince, “James,” was at least 15 years older than he had claimed. Trying to overlook it, she had a decent conversation with him. He seemed harmless enough so she agreed to go see the kittens he said his cat had just had.
When he pulled up to the dilapidated trailer park, Patty was puzzled. Why was a lawyer living in a rusted trailer? But she agreed to go inside, and instead of one cat with a small box of kittens, she found herself quickly rubbed up against by what seemed an endless stream of cats. She didn’t wait around for an explanation, though a later internet search turned up what she had already suspected: the “lawyer” she had met with was not one at all. In fact, he was the shift manager of a fast food restaurant. She says she still itches when she thinks of his smelly, cat-infested home.
According to Leonardo Bustos, author and dating consultant, “Since it’s so prevalent, anyone can fall prey if they don’t exercise the proper cautionary measures. Someone can fall prey either out of desperation or naiveté.”
Bustos suggests getting a background check on someone after you have met for coffee (publicly!) and think you might like this person. In any case, early on you should insist on a phone call to be sure you’re speaking with who you think you are. Even better, ask to Skype or Facetime. If your date pretends not to know what that is or refuses, consider yourself catfished and cut bait.