Catfishing Online: How To Avoid Getting Scammed Like Manti Te'o

By Melissa Siegel, Posted: 01/17/13 02:15PM EST

The idea of catfishing someone online has spread around the Internet in the wake of the Manti Te'o hoax. Deadspin reported on Wednesday that the Notre Dame linebacker's supposedly dead girlfriend never actually existed.

While the Deadspin story claims there is an "80 percent chance" Te'o knew about the hoax, the linebacker has insisted he was a victim.

"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," Manti Te'o said in a statement, per AOL Sporting News. "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."

Notre Dame's athletic director, Jeff Swarbrick, went one step further, claiming that Te'o was the victim of a catfishing scam.

"I would refer all of you, if you're not already familiar with it, with both the documentary called 'Catfish,' the MTV show which is a derivative of that documentary and the sort of associated things you'll find online and otherwise about 'Catfish' or 'catfishing,'" he said during a press conference, per USA Today.

So what exactly is catfishing online?

The term hit the public lexicon back in 2010, when Nev Schulman made the aforementioned documentary about his real-life experience being duped by an Internet girlfriend. Schulman then created a series on MTV that helps victims catch the catfish who have duped them.

"To think about the definition of 'Catfish,' it's really anybody that is willing to take a risk, push the envelope, leave their comfort zone," Schulman told MTV. "The people who reach out to me are in many ways Catfish because they're looking to take a chance, take a risk, and then there's always a chance the other person we haven't met could also be doing the same thing. [They] might not be being totally honest: We don't know until we get there and we find out."

Per CBS, Schulman has already tweeted that he is trying to get to the bottom of the Manti Te'o hoax.

Max Joseph, the other filmmaker involved in the "Catfish" movie and television show, spoke to the Washington Post earlier this month. During the interview, he gave tips on how to avoid falling victim to a catfishing scam. Among the warning signs he noted were Facebook profiles with fewer than 100 friends and/or posts that only mention how pretty the supposed person is. Profiles without tagged photos are another red flag. He also noted that the scammers in question usually create an Internet persona that's a model.

Meanwhile, ABC News posted a story back in 2011 full of advice for identifying fake social media accounts. The article notes that "too good to be true" profiles are likely just that and suggests doing quick background checks via Google before getting too involved in an Internet relationship.

Read More:

Manti Te'o's Dead Girlfriend A Hoax? Deadspin Claims Lennay Kekua Never Existed

Manti Te'o Memes: Te'o's Fake Dead Girlfriend Saga Spawns "Teoing" (PHOTOS)

Manti Te'o Girlfriend Hoax: Real Pictures of Lennay Kekua

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