Psychology behind ‘catfish’ schemes

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SOUTH BEND, Ind.—Social media allows people to connect in new ways but it also allows others to deceive people they may have never met.

Manti Teo’s fake girlfriend hoax has brought national attention to “catfish” scams.

Throughout last year, Teo believed he was in a relationship with “Lennay Kekua.”

The pair had never met and had only spoken over the phone.

The relationship abruptly ended when “Kekua” died tragically from leukemia.

After months of mourning, the star football player found out it was all a lie.

Jack Swarbrick, Notre Dame Athletic Director, said, “In many ways, Manti was the perfect mark because he is a guy who is so willing to believe in others and so ready to help.”

Now, many people are asking what type of person could create a fake persona and lead that kind of lie.

Psychiatrist Dr. Clark Smith said, “It might be somebody who just wants to take power over somebody to control their lives, to humiliate them basically. If they humiliate someone else it makes them feel better.”

Smith says social media is the perfect platform to prey on victims, especially young people.

He said, “People in college now have grown up with social media and they really rely on it to a very big extent.”
The problem is that many people trust what they find on social media sites.

Even veteran journalists got wrapped up in the hoax, writing columns about how this was a storybook season for Notre Dame as the team who struggled with heartache while vying for a national championship.

It’s a mistake that could affect Teo for the rest of his life.

He said, “It’s a humiliation that’s going to be a blow to his self-esteem. He may never get over it.”

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