I Was "Catfished" Like Manti Te'o

I Was "Catfished" Like Manti Te'o
TMZ's photo of Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o and his supposed 'girlfriend,' Lennay Kekua. The two never met face to face. Beware!

Since joining Facebook in 2008, I've come into contact with many individuals I treasure, and would have had no other way to connect other than Facebook. Some are school friends. Others are new friends I made through our common interests and connections. Many professional opportunities have come my way because of the commonality of our Facebook connection.

And I am grateful to that rascal Mark Zuckerberg for making Facebook the social networking tool that brought us all together.

Facebook's darker side, though, lies in the fact that access to a person's life appears to be an open door to all the crazies in the world.

It seems almost impossible to believe that intelligent, sensitive Notre Dame star linebacker and Heisman Trophy runner-up Manti Te'o, whose tearful, heartfelt story about his beloved grandmother and girlfriend Lennay Kekua passing away within hours of each other was a significant factor in bringing attention to himself and the Fighting Irish' run to the BCS Championship Game, could have been scammed. In an ever-changing story and timeline, Te'o a possible first-round NFL draftee, may or may not have been scammed in a similar fashion to what I learned to call "catfishing."

The jury is far, far out on what Te'o knew, when he knew it, whether he had a hand in creating it, and how much he felt pressure to conceal his knowledge, following the apparent discovery that his Facebook "girlfriend" was all a hoax.

I get how he could be deceived. Because such a thing very nearly happened to me.

Last year, I was approached by an attractive blonde man who sent me a Facebook message. "You are beautiful," the man wrote, "I want to get to know you."  His name was "Daniel Rivers." According to his profile, he was widowed, a consultant in the oil refinery industry, and had two young boys. He also had about 90 friends on Facebook.  I had come to learn that scammers often had fewer than 10 friends on Facebook, so he "passed" the Facebook test for possible friendship.

I retorted to Mr. Rivers. "Thanks for the compliment. As long as this 'friendship' does not involve money changing hands, friend me." I got a huffy response. "What, are you trying to embarass me?" he demanded. I explained that some people I knew had been taken in scams on Facebook. He, of course, assured me that he would do no such thing. And we began to chat.

Every time I was online, there he was. He'd often start chats with me by telling me where he was, some cute anecdote about his family, and how glad he was that we had 'met.'

A couple of weeks later, he declared his 'love' for me, and his intention to marry me and make me a mother to his children.

Whoaaaaaa, buddy! You're a Facebook friend. I'm not looking for anyone. But I thought it was interesting that he'd never met me and still wanted to make me the mother of his children.

"How on Earth could you love me when you've never met me?" I asked by Facebook Chat. "Because I've never had conversations like this," he answered. "You are intelligent and sharp. You are beautiful. I don't need a long meeting to see that you are the right mother for my children."

"What if I'm lying?" I challenged.

"You seem too honest for that," he chatted back. "Besides, in my business, we videochat all the time. We don't  meet in person until the business contract is signed."

"But these are your children!" I spluttered in Facebook-Chat emphasis.

"I think you question my intelligence," he answered. "I am not born yesterday. I know something. "

"Well," I said. "I think you need to meet me. Can that happen?"

"I will be away for the next few weeks," he answered. After that, we'll figure it out."

While he was 'away,' Daniel told me his grandmother took a fall. She was apparently in a hospital. He told me how unhappy he was with her care. And then....

"I need you to step in for me," he Facebook-chatted me one day. "I am unhappy with Grandma's care. They are demanding money now. I need you to send me some money."

"I can't," I said. "I am broke. And I told you that a friendship was fine, as long as you didn't ask me for money."

"But you're going to be the mother of my children!" he wrote. "How could you be such a bad mother? What happens when I'm away on business and something happens? How can I trust you then if I can't trust you now?"

"Besides," he continued. "Then, I can introduce you as the savior of my family."

I wrote back that I had no need to be the 'savior' of anyone's family, and de-friended/blocked him from all further contact on Facebook and other social media sites.

That wasn't the end of Mr. Daniel Rivers, though.  A few months later, he wrote an apology to me on a site I thought I had blocked from him, asking forgiveness and wanting to "come back together."

Whoever that is, he had balls. But so do I.

This time, I reported him as "spam."

The lesson of the story, of course, is the old rule of journalism: "IF YOUR MOTHER SAYS SHE LOVES YOU, CHECK IT OUT!"

Beware those who come to you because of something they see in your profile. A real relationship is built on a system of values and chemistry that are experienced by two people, not automatically declared on Facebook.

Facebook is best used as a tool to bring people together face-to-face. Not a dealmaker in itself.

The epic fail on everyone associated with Manti Te'o's case, of course, was in not checking the media track record. Kudos to Deadspin  for that. It's easy, via Google, Bing, etc. to find out if a person exists or not.

You won't find the Daniel Rivers I met by Googling. Nor Lennay Kekua, the woman of Manti Te'o's Mormon dreams. They don't exist.

A word from the wise is sufficient. Don't fall for these people. And don't make them the center of your universe!



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