“Catfishing” happens in the legal world too

“Catfishing” happens in the legal world too







So surely you know about the Manti T’eo story and if you don’t then I doubt you are reading my random legal blog. Most people I have talked to about it have two thoughts:

1. That could never happen to me.

2. This story is so annoying I wish it would go away.  Enough already ESPN.

 I agree with number 2, but people who think something like this could never happen to them are fooling themselves.  People that pull off these scams are skilled.  Sometimes they are skilled criminals and sometimes they are just skilled pranksters. I get calls all of the time from people that have been scammed in to sending strangers money in order to collect a “prize” they won.  These people really want it to be true and that allows their common sense to go out the window.  Others buy something on Ebay or Craigslist and even though the seller seems really trustworthy, they don’t give you what you paid for and can’t be found after the money has changed hands.

 Similar to what happened to Manti, many people actually develop a real relationship, but later discover that the person they are with has psychological issues.  Borderline personality disorder is a common illness which can cause people to make up facets of their life.  Some will lie about where they work, where they went to school, what they are doing, who their friends are, being victims of a crime, having a disease, etc.  Imagine you start dating a pretty woman who is nice to you.  It’s your first girlfriend in a while.  The sex is great.  You go on vacation together.  You think this could last a while.  One day she calls you in a panic and tells you that she was mugged on the street.  Why would you doubt her?  Or a month later she is complaining that her boss is sexually harassing her.  Could you call b.s. on that? 

 Next thing you know you are married, have a couple of kids and think you are on your way with your life.  You decide to pop in to her office to say hello.  You’ve never been there, but were in the neighborhood.  You learn that she never worked there at all and they have no idea who you are talking about.  You start to think that it’s weird she never gave you an office number, but trusted her answer that personal calls weren’t allowed.  You never saw a paycheck, but she told you she had direct deposit and you’ve always kept your bank accounts separate.

 When you confront her at home she becomes defensive and attacks you for not trusting her and says she can’t be married to someone who doesn’t believer her.  So one minute you’re popping in to say hi to your wife and the next minute you are being told that a divorce is in the works.

 People get trapped in relationships like this all of the time.  Usually they dig deeper and find out other things aren’t true like this woman pretending to be mugged.  I’ve gotten calls from guys whose wives lied about having cancer, living abroad, running marathons, going to college and many other things.  The lucky ones can break up or get a divorce.  The unfortunate ones are stuck because they have kids so even with the divorce they have to deal with the crazy ex spouse for many years to come.  And when these women (can be men too, but I’ve never received the call where the man made this stuff up although I’m sure it happens) get in to court they are great at manipulating the system and telling lies, including phony complaints of domestic battery. 

 All of the people fooled in these situations are just acting as normal human beings act.  Why would you ever question someone who said they were raped or worked some place or went to France for vacation, etc.?  If you were dating someone who insisted you provide proof for everything you say, you’d think they were nuts or a pain in the backside and you would move on. 

 Most everyone around has been fooled like Manti was in one way or another and they probably don’t even know it.   But falling for a lie is what happened to him.  Yes it seems weird because he claimed to be dating someone he never actually met, but in 2013 it’s not so weird to have a friendship with someone you don’t know.  I have communicated with multiple Chicagnow bloggers by e-mail only and have never met any of them, including the head of the whole thing Jimmy Greenfield (if that in fact is his real name).  How would I know that any of them are liars and who would want to live a life where you question everything that people say.

 Sure this leads to stuff like Manti T’eo getting duped or in a much more extreme situation, Bernie Madoff stealing billions from his clients.  That’s not being catfished in the sense that you never meet the person, but trusting in someone who isn’t what they say they are happens all the time and it keeps a lot of lawyers in business. 

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    This can only happen to people who believe they can have a relationship with someone through a computer. Yes, you can be duped by someone you meet in person--at least early on. But it's much harder to continue to fool someone over the long term in person (of course, some people are far more gullible than others). But anyone who thinks that he has a girlfriend even though he has never seen her in person is a sucker.

  • Don't throw your common sense out of the window and you'll be just fine. People set themselves up for these scams and then fall into the trap so easily. Be suspicious and make relationships with real people first, in person, not online.

  • My girlfriend just contacted me to look this story up..... why? Because I too have been there recently. I connected with someone on the internet who was extremely clever. It's not just what happened with him, it's what happened afterwards and I discovered that the stolen photos he used are being used in more than 25 other sites, which means there is another victim out there as well. For a few of you "know it alls" out here that simply think people are stupid because they get lured into these situations, I will tell you that are absolutely wrong. These preditors feel people out to find whether or not they are vulnerable because of their personal situations, whether or not they may be lonely or going through a tough situation. These guys/woman are masterminds at their game and are so trained they are hard to beat. I am in the process of writing a book on my experience and my mistakes with the hopes of educating others not to repeat what I did.

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