On the internet, it’s way too easy for people to hide who they are. With a well-crafted online profile and a convincing story, anyone can pretend to be anyone or anything else. In fact, one study found that one out of 10 online dating profiles are fake. When you add that fact to the ever-growing popularity of online dating, the potential for catfishing is truly remarkable.
You might think that celebrities are immune to being the victims of catfishing. After all, you would expect that the rich and famous could start all their dating adventures in real life. However, there are actually quite a few big names who have found themselves caught in a catfish scandal. Here are just a few of them:
Joel Dommett, an English actor and comedian, made an impulsive decision that came back to bite him a few years later. When he was on the show “I’m a Celebrity,” Joel explained, “Basically, someone messaged me on Twitter and after a while, she was like, ‘do you want Skype sex?’ I was like, ‘yeah alright.’ I was so naive.”
Joel thought he was getting intimate via Skype with the person he met online. In fact, though, he was watching a video of someone else — not the person he had met online. The catfish recorded Joel and a few years later released the sex tape to the world.
Everyone’s favorite female rapper was ensnared in perhaps one of the most embarrassing — albeit harmless — catfishing situations. She wasn’t fooled by some stranger who just wanted to mess with a celebrity. As it turns out, the catfish was Iggy’s own mother.
Iggy’s mom wasn’t trying to do anything nefarious, though. She set up an online profile and made herself out to be a major fan of Iggy’s. Iggy thought the fan was cool and decided to befriend her — only to later find out that the person she thought was so awesome was her own mother. Well, hey, moms and daughters can be friends online, right?
Manti Te’o is known for his prowess on the football field. In college, he was nominated for the Heisman trophy, and now he is a linebacker for the New Orleans Saints. Off the football field, however, Manti had an online girlfriend who turned out not to exist.
One of Manti’s former friends set up the fake profile using photos from a real woman’s Facebook and Instagram accounts. Manti met “Lennay Kekua,” as the fake woman was called, over Twitter. They struck up a relationship that ended in tragedy. Lennay died of cancer. Charities and fundraisers rallied to help out the fake woman’s family.
It’s tough to imagine the emotional roller coaster that Manti must have gone through. His experience provides a sobering lesson for anyone who is thinking about dating online: Investigate, investigate, investigate. If Manti had done something as simple as a reverse image search, he may not have become another name on the list of celebrities who were catfished.
Chris Anderson and Paris Dunn
Chris Anderson, often called “the bird man” because of his colorful tattoos, is a big name in the NBA. He met a gorgeous aspiring model on Facebook. According to Paris Dunn, the woman he met, she received a message that appeared to be from Anderson. It simply said, “Hey, I see you’re a fan.” Dunn was 17 at the time and was so excited to hear from the celebrity that she didn’t investigate the matter further.
However, Dunn wasn’t the only one who was catfished. The catfish was playing both sides of the relationship, sending fake messages between two real people. The catfish also pretended to be a man named Tom Taylor, who claimed to be Anderson’s agent. When “Taylor” suggested that Anderson and Dunn meet in person, they did.
They met for a weekend rendezvous and quickly realized that each one had incorrect details about the other. The situation became even more complicated as time passed, and a criminal investigation ensued. Eventually, the orchestrator of the whole ordeal, a woman in a tiny town in Canada, was caught and served 18 months in prison for her elaborate scheme.
The country music star Brad Paisley has a generous spirit, which was one of the reasons he got catfished. His wife received an email from a woman who claimed her daughter had cancer; the woman even provided pictures. Brad and his wife were touched, and Brad even sang “Amazing Grace” to the girl over the phone.
However, the country music star and his wife became suspicious when they heard that the girl with cancer had died. When they offered to send flowers, the girl’s “mother” refused to provide an address. The girl with cancer never existed. Later, it was revealed that other stars, including Little Big Town and John Henson, had been tricked by the same woman. The woman was caught and convicted of theft of services.
Actress Tracie Thoms connected with a super-fan, Sammie, online. They struck up a friendship, and eventually, Sammie introduced Tracie to another fan — “Reese.” Reese and Thoms even worked together to promote Tracie and her ongoing projects. When Reese passed away, Sammie sent videos of a funeral service to Thoms. However, Reese never existed.
This story appeared on the TV show “Catfish.” The show’s host, Nev Schulman, said he thought that Sammie was just looking for a little attention. She didn’t appear to have any long-range plans or goals for her scheme.
Avoid Getting Catfished
It only takes a little know-how and a bit of creativity to become a successful catfish. Dishonest people are lurking in every corner of the web, and celebrities and normal folks alike should be cautious whenever they connect with people online.
The best way to avoid become a catfish victim is through caution and research. Do background checks on people you meet, always be alert to the little details that don’t add up, and don’t set your heart on anyone whom you haven’t met in person.