Online dating apps and social media sites are taking over social interactions, discouraging people from communicating face-to-face, as it’s easier to take rejection when it’s through some kind of online platform. The downside of this is that online users with certain profiles are a hundred times more likely to be “Catfished.” So, what’s Catfishing, you ask? A term made popular by MTV’s show Catfish, this is when someone creates a dating or social media profile using someone else’s photos in order to deceive others.
If you’ve seen the show then you know Nev and Max travel around the country investigating online relationships suspected to have formed from fake profiles. While Catfishers often go after their victims to boost their own self-confidence, some stories aren’t so simple. They might be scammers who are out for money, an ex seeking revenge, or someone who is just plain bored. Catfish highlights both sides of Catfishing, and has inspired hundreds of people to come forward with their own stories.
Both victims and Catfishers themselves have shared their experiences all over the internet, and not all of them are quite as PG as those on the show. Think you’re safe? Even those who don’t go out of their way to seek relationships online can become a victim of Catfishing simply by having a profile on any social media website. Even private profiles allow “friends” to access your photos, and there are no regulations on what they can and cannot do with them. Not worried? You will be after you read these insane Catfish stories! In fact, I guarantee that you’ll be deactivating profiles left and right by the end of this article.
15. The Alyssa Milano Not-So-Look-Alike
Reddit user doghound412 described his experience on Plenty of Fish as uneventful until he finally connected with a sexy Alyssa Milano look-alike. Even though he noticed that her photos had been touched-up and described them as “1980’s Glamour Shots,” he decided to give it a shot and drove thirty miles to meet her face-to-face. After heading to a Starbucks close to where she lived in the pouring rain, he peeked inside and immediately assumed he’d been stood up. “As I approach the door I notice there being very few people [inside]… an older bald male, a very tall chubby cleaning lady, a teen mom and her child, and a few employees.”
Since you know where this is heading, can you guess which one was his date? It was the chubby cleaning lady, who turned out to be a fish most people would throw back rather than the Milano look-alike she claimed to be in her photos. “We talked (I listened) for about 5 whole minutes about how she lost custody of her child, she was in rehab and on disability, and was basically living in a friend’s basement. I humored the situation and asked what she liked to do when she got loud and said she just LOOOOOVED people watching and proceed to make fun of everyone in the shop loudly for 10 minutes.”
Sounds bad, right? Well, it gets worse. The guy made it through his cup of coffee and politely made up an excuse to leave, claiming he needed to get to bed early for work the next morning. In attempt to save the evening, he decided to stop at an Ikea nearby since he’d already made the long-distance drive.
Guess who he ran into? That’s right, his date from hell. After he claimed he was picking up something quick before heading home (because that’s why everyone goes to Ikea), she proceeded to follow him around the store. “When we get to the bed section, where there seem to be a lot of families shopping at the moment, she long jumps (in reverse) onto a bed, starts moaning, attempts sexy poses, and asks to come over to my place. This was all I could take, I dropped my basket of stuff, sprinted out of the store and blocked her number immediately. She tried to chase but wasn’t fast enough.” I doubt this poor guy went on many blind dates after that.
14. The Sims Gone Wild
Remember playing Sims as a kid and connecting with other kids through the game? It was like being in a chatroom that depicted real-life interactions. Reddit user dank4tao described how he met a girl named “Chloe” while playing the game, and quickly developed a long distance relationship with her. Then, as all teenagers do, he asked Chloe if she had a friend that he could set his best friend up with, and coincidentally she did!
After years of the two being in long-distance relationships, they decided they would fly to California to meet the girls they’d been talking to. Unfortunately for this Reddit user, Chloe was unable to meet him as she was preparing to move to Massachusetts. This didn’t stop his friend from flying out to meet his online girlfriend, however.
He goes on to say: “Then while he was away I got a call from his mother. She had put the pieces together when he flew out to Massachusetts rather than California and wanted to inform me that whom I had been in an ‘online’ relationship was not whom she said she was. In fact, the private detective she hired informed her ‘Chloe’ was 2 years younger than she claimed to be and her best friend was not only 25+ years older than she claimed to be but also Chloe’s mother. To top it all off my ‘best friend’ at the time had known for months, but flew out to Massachusetts to hook up [with] her Mom anyways and played along because no one wanted to hurt my feelings by telling me the truth.” Sounds like his “best friend” may have had to wait another eight to ten years before he saw his girlfriend again.
13. Catfish Prevents Murder
When nineteen-year-old Marissa Williams pissed off her aunt by inviting strange guys she’d met online to their home, her aunt decided to teach her a lesson. As Marissa’s caregiver, her aunt chose to create a fake Facebook profile to show her niece the dangers of having online relationships, but instead was shown a side of her niece that shocked her.
Under the identity Tre “Topdog” Ellis, Marissa’s aunt friended her niece and began chatting with her on a regular basis. It wasn’t long before her niece gave the stranger her phone number and home address, inviting him to come over and get drunk with her. Marissa even went as far as offering to have sex with “Tre” if he’d pay her $50 cell phone bill.
After just a few days of communicating, Marissa began to complain about her family, asking “Tre” to come kidnap her and shoot her aunt if she tried to stop him. Her plans became increasingly more serious as she described to the stranger how he could break into her aunt’s bedroom, even suggesting to kill her aunt’s fiancé before shooting her aunt. She then asked that her fictional friend kill her cousin and the family dog on his way out, while she put her luggage in his car. Obviously the aunt took these conversations to the police, and Marissa was arrested for the solicitation of murder.
12. Catfished By Yourself
Imagine you’re scrolling through potential dates or hook ups on your favorite dating app and you come across yourself. This is exactly what happened to Jack Kennedy as he was swiping through guys on Grindr. Jack received an initial message of just a photo of himself, and assuming the guy was asking if that was him in the picture he responded, “Mhm?” and asked for the guy to send him photos of himself. To his surprise, the guy continued to send him picture after picture depicting himself. Jack confronted the Catfish, telling him that he was sending him photos of himself, but they wouldn’t admit their lie and even offered Jack proof.
“They started sending more photos of me, and I was just sat in bed thinking ‘OK, this guy has to be joking. There’s no way this is happening.’ Then he actually offered to send proof that it was him, and at this point I just couldn’t stop laughing. I went on to ask him for his ‘proof’, which turned out to be a photo of his (fortunately not mine) penis. After this I just closed the app and ignored him.”
Not sure exactly how a d**k-pic is proof, but as a photographer, Jack’s photos are popular online, and many of them depict himself. While he reported the incident to Grindr, since the user didn’t put the photos in his profile but sent them in a message, they can’t ban him from using the site.
11. ‘Doc’ Catfishes Woman Into Lesbian Relationship
Angela Buchanan had been pursuing a relationship with a female friend for years with little progress until she posed as a gynecologist on Yahoo! with the username “Doc.” Buchanan recommended this “doctor” to her long-time friend, claiming she had helped her with her battle against breast cancer and the delivery of her twins that she’d had through in vitro fertilization with a previous partner. Confused yet? Stay with me, the facts get even more jumbled…
Posing as “Doc,” Angela began a professional relationship online with her crush, pretending to let her in on Angela’s cancer diagnosis. She informed her Catfishing victim that in order to ward off Angela’s cancer, she should encourage Angela to get into a sexual relationship to release helpful hormones. The “Doc” even suggested the victim herself lend her friend a hand. While the victim had grown up gay, she hadn’t identified as a lesbian for years due to moral reasons. However, to save her friend, she reluctantly agreed to a sexual relationship with Angela.
The scam gets worse. Every week, Angela would supposedly go for bloodwork, and “Doc” would later go over the results with her victim to demonstrate to her how their intimacy was improving Angela’s health and recommend how their sexual relationship should continue. “Doc” would advise her of the length of time, frequency, and nature of the sex she should have with Angela each week. Even more sickening, Angela told her that “Doc” recommended she get ahead of the cancer and receive a mastectomy, and on the day of the surgery, like any good friend, the victim was by her side.
“Doc” and Angela later convinced the victim to travel to another state in order to unite in a same-sex marriage so Angela would have a better chance of getting custody of her children. Unfortunately for the victim, it wasn’t until she was legally bound to this psycho that her daughter mentioned her suspicion that Angela and “Doc” were the same person. Turns out she was right. Not only did Angela not have any children, but she never had cancer. She’s now looking at jail time and a hefty fine.
10. Kidd Cole Catfishes His Way To Celebrity Status
Claiming to have been the youngest artist under Kanye West’s record label, you may be familiar with Kidd Cole if you’re a fan of MTV’s Catfish. Probably the most manipulative Catfish in the show’s history, Nev and Max are first introduced to his persona by a woman named Lucille, who was under the impression that she was working for Kidd Cole as an assistant. She was originally contacted by the self-proclaimed rapper on Twitter, and he offered her a trial run for a position within the company. As it had always been Lucille’s dream to work in the music industry, she was excited to help and jumped at the opportunity.
Her trial run consisted of arranging a security team, hotels, and a driver for the alleged artist for a performance he had in Washington D.C. Instead of paying these invoices, Kidd Cole created a series of fake contracts, and Lucille was inevitably responsible for paying his debts of thousands of dollars.
After Nev and Max did some digging, they discovered that both the artist’s and his manager’s phone numbers were registered by the same person. Additionally they used their connections at MTV to discover that no one at Kanye West’s record label had heard of him, and that the MTV artist page that he used to validate his up and coming celebrity status was nothing more than a glorified MySpace page. Even the tracks on his music page were stolen from other artists.
It wasn’t hard for the Catfish duo to discover that Lucille wasn’t the only one scammed by Kidd Cole, even going as far as meeting with Loretta, a limo driver out $8,000 because of the guy’s use of her luxury car service and skipping out on the bill. While he admitted to some wrong-doing on the show, it didn’t seem that Kidd Cole actually learned his lesson. He was still up to his scheming ways after the show aired, and in May of 2015 he was arrested for making phony terrorist threats in Washington D.C. He made false bomb and hostage threats eleven times before he was finally tracked down.
9. Football Player Catfished
One of the more well known cases of Catfishing happened to Notre Dame football player Manti Te’o in 2012. When his girlfriend Lennay Kekua succumbed to leukemia, there was an outpouring of support from fans. Even though her death inspired the linebacker to play better, inevitably leading the team to the BCS National Championship game, it turned out the player had been Catfished.
When the story broke, the media did some digging and discovered that his alleged girlfriend Lennay Kekua did not actually exist. After Manti received a phone call from Lennay’s phone number and the voice he recognized as hers on the other end claimed that she was in fact alive, the school decided to launch a full investigation on the issue. The trail led them to the real woman in the photographs who provided the name of someone who likely created the profile. Claims came out that Manti knew about the fake Twitter profile, and that he was using the death of his online girlfriend for publicity.
He eventually admitted to not having ever met this woman but that he had developed an emotional connection with her. “This is incredibly embarrassing to talk about, but over an extended period of time, I developed an emotional relationship with a woman I met online. We maintained what I thought to be an authentic relationship by communicating frequently online and on the phone, and I grew to care deeply about her. To realize that I was the victim of what was apparently someone’s sick joke and constant lies was, and is, painful and humiliating.” Whether he was in on the hoax or not, the death of his virtual girlfriend sure did help to push his career forward.
8. Catfish Causes Teenager’s Suicide
Probably one of the most controversial Catfishing incidents in history, Lori Drew’s decision to create a fake MySpace page has inspired controversy among lawmakers all over the country. In attempt to defend her teenage daughter against a bully, she created a fake MySpace profile under the name Josh Evans. Posing as a 16-year-old boy, Lori attacked her daughter’s bully through use of personal messages, even having a coworker contribute to the nasty conversation. No one can say which of the two women sent the last message telling the teenager that the world would be better off without her, but it fell harshly on the 13-year-old who hung herself in her bedroom just twenty minutes after the message was sent.
While the judge dismissed Lori’s Catfishing as the cause of the teenager’s death, calling her actions “rude” and “immature,” her escaping without punishment seemed to fall short of the public’s expectations. It was clear that while Lori wasn’t solely responsible for the girl’s death, she certainly needed to be held to some accountability. The only positive thing to come out of this Catfishing story is that many states have since passed laws against cyber-bullying to ensure something like this won’t go unpunished again.
7. Birdman Nearly Gets Locked Up
Chris “Birdman” Anderson is another athlete who was the victim of Catfishing. Shelley Chartier, a 31-year-old Canadian recluse, had created over a dozen fake Facebook profiles for celebrities- including the NBA player. Shelley used the profiles to lure underage girls into conversations with her, and she’d then pose as the girls and forward the conversations along to the actual celebrities. Unfortunately for Birdman, he agreed to meet up with one of these girls as he’d been talking to Shelley the whole time who had told the athlete that the girl was nineteen.
Shelley then posed as the teenager’s mother and showed that she had evidence of their conversations, threatening to release them to the public if he didn’t give her money. Birdman reportedly sent the woman $3,000 before she posed as him again to send the teenager a slew of threats. This got the police involved and media coverage of the investigation lost him millions of dollars in endorsements. It took years for investigators to figure out the scam, but Birdman was ultimately able to get back his reputation.
6. Teenager Dies After Catfish Cancels Date
I think we can all agree that there’s nothing like falling in love as a teenager, and with the popularity of online dating sites these days, the chances of becoming Catfished have increased drastically. Brandon Wentzell was unknowingly the victim of someone he met on Plenty of Fish who didn’t only catfish him once, but created a slew of characters each with their own social media pages and personalities.
It started with Clarissa, with whom Brendan quickly developed a relationship and fell in love. Clarissa then introduced him to her brother, who she said was Brendan’s age. It wasn’t long before the two were online buddies as well. To add further drama to the mix, Clarissa’s jealous ex-boyfriend would send Brandon threatening messages on Facebook that would often rile him up, according to his mother. Unfortunately, Brendon didn’t realize these three Facebook profiles were actually being run by a single person, a woman he didn’t actually know at all.
Many attempts were made by Brandon to meet his girlfriend, but all were met with excuses. On their last planned date, Brandon’s mother remembers her son being especially excited. “He was so excited he cleaned his room. He never cleaned his room, ever.” The last time Clarissa canceled on Brandon he got upset, and went out partying. Brandon texted Clarissa that night telling her he’d taken some pills and was mixing them with vodka, which later caused his death. His mother discovered the lies when she contacted Clarissa to inform her of what happened to Brandon and she posed as Clarissa’s mother claiming that Clarissa had committed suicide. Police were later involved when the woman reported the death of Clarissa Chistiakov, who not only didn’t die, but never existed.
5. A Shocking Catfish Ending
As a fan of MTV’s Catfish, it would be impossible for me to leave out one of my favorite episodes. In the premiere of season four, Nev and Max meet 21-year-old Tiana who is head-over-heels for a guy named James. The two met on Myspace three years earlier, and hit it off. Even though they only lived 45 minutes from each other, it seemed Tiana only became suspicious after years of canceled meetings and failed video chats. Hilariously, throughout the episode Tiana mixed up Nev and Max several times, to which they played along, of course.
While Tiana was sure that James was hiding something from her, it became known that she was hiding something from him also. Apparently James had made it clear that he was opposed to a life with children, so Tiana had hid from him the fact that she had a daughter, which turned out to be nothing compared to what he was hiding.
While heading to go meet James, Tiana’s friend Aisha, who was along for the support, mentioned how familiar the area felt to her. When they pulled up to the auto shop where James had ask them to meet, it all clicked for Aisha. Inside the garage was Trez, her baby daddy who had developed feelings for her best friend. This makes his dislike for children more understandable as he was clearly paying his fair share of child support. Tiana immediately assumed the two were in on it together and that it was some kind of big joke. Needless to say, “James” didn’t get the girl and Tiana lost her best friend.
4. Catfish Preys On Teenagers
Natalia Burgess, a 29-year-old woman, was sentenced to over two years in prison for luring teenage boys as young as 13 into online relationships and getting them to send her money. She would convince these boys to give her their Facebook login information so she could change their relationship status to a “in a relationship” with her. Natalia would then ask them for their banking information, claiming she wanted to lend them money so they could add minutes to their phone plan and they could talk more. It’s easy to see how a young guy with raging hormones would fall for this, especially when they think they’re talking to some sexy, older woman.
Natalia also got these boys to loan her money as they saw no problem with this since she had been quick to do the same for them. She even went as far as to lie about having a daughter, requesting money to help support her. When one of her victims denied her the money she asked for, she went on his Facebook page and started messaging his friends, pretending to be him and likely causing trouble. She changed his password so he couldn’t log back in, and would only give it up if he gave her the money she asked for. Understandably, as a teenager, having someone talking to your friends posing as you is equivalent to the world ending, and he gave in. After several years, Natalia was finally caught. She claimed to not remember most of what she was being charged for due to excessive drug use. Figures.
3. Mother Of The Year
The mother of Reddit user ‘Mommasaur’ should be put away for child endangerment. She explained that her and her sister had become suspicious of their mother’s behavior, and thought she might be involved in Catfishing men on Facebook. “My mother had asked my sister one time how to make multiple Facebook accounts, would close her laptop whenever you entered the room, kept tape over the camera on the computer, and her phone would ring all the time, but she would never answer it.”
Their suspicions grew when they were out with their mother one day, and when her phone rang she began to panic and asked the sister to answer it. When she did, her sister said there was a guy on the other end with an accent she didn’t recognize who asked her what she looked like and what happened to her Irish accent. Creeped out, the girl hung up. Turns out, their mother had been talking to a slew of young guys using her daughter’s photos to create these fake profiles. Her sister was very creeped out, and moved out of her mother’s house soon after. Mother of the year alert over here!
2. Catfished By A Ghost
Reddit user Arhia posted about her relationship on MSN as a teenager with ‘Zack.’ They continued their friendship for nearly two years without ever meeting in person or video chatting. Zack told her all about his sister and his mother, and even about his father who had left them when he was a child. They talked on a regular basis, until he came online and she noticed that he was a bit off. Then he asked that they video chat, which she found odd since they’d never done that before.
“So webcam turns on and there’s this girl. She looked about 14…I had been talking to ‘her’ the whole time. Except I hadn’t at the same time. Zack died a few years back. When he died (I have no idea what had happened to him) his little sister took on his personality…She believed she was Zack a lot of the time. Spoke like she was him, told people she was him. So the whole time I had been talking to a personality of a mentally ill girl.”
Turns out Zack had passed away long before this Reddit user ever spoke to him. Props to the girl for coming clean, but this has to be the oddest Catfish background story of all time.
1. Catfish Vigilante Or Trained Actor
Back to MTV’s Catfish, another one of my favorite episodes depicted a cheating baby daddy and an online dating vigilante seemingly off his rocker. If you’re a fan of the show, there’s no way you don’t remember Artis. After developing an online relationship with “Jess,” Artis was compelled to put things on hold with his baby mama and live-in girlfriend to pursue this mystery girl. Turned out, the only photo Artis had ever seen of this girl was taken from an adult site, cropped appropriately.
Still convinced he and Jess had something special, Nev and Max set up a meeting between the two. I think it’s safe to say that viewers around the world were in shock when they saw Justin step out of his car and approach the cameras. Supposed strangers, Justin claimed to be a vigilante targeting men in relationships with his fake Facebook page. By luring men away from their girlfriends, he felt like he was teaching them a lesson when he stood them up or came forward as himself.
The world was in shock, as Justin’s persona was intense to say the least and the media took to investigate his backstory. Rumors that Justin and Artis knew each other and that the whole thing was an act hit Twitter soon after the episode aired. Whether they pulled one over the eyes of Catfish’s producers, Jerry Springer style, or whether the show hires actors is unknown, but it sure did make for a great episode!