Expert: ‘Catfishing’ happens every day online

Tools

By Jason Aubry

A cybercrime expert says what happened to Manti Te’o is actually fairly common. He says with the right planning, a good manipulator and a little luck, it can happen to anyone.

It’s called catfishing, convincing someone online that you are someone else.

Today's form of catfishing came from the playbook of a confidence man.

"Often times there is some sort of a romantic tie-in to it where they try to make up or fabricate some kind of relationship, but in its most basic form, catfishing has been around forever,” said Eric Tamashasky.

Tamashasky, with the cybercrimes unit of St. Joseph County says, what happened to Manti Te'o, happens every day online.

"We read about this, we see this on the news every day. Manti Te'o is just an extremely high profile victim of this who is put through the extraordinary suffering of watching this play out in the national news,” said Tamashasky.

Te'o isn't the first person to fall for this scam.

Tamashasky recently completed an investigation of a Facebook account that belonged to someone calling themselves Dawson Andrew Taylor.

This person convinced more than 850 people he really existed for three years before police shut them down.

"Girls had talked to this person every night for two or three hours more than 10,000 text messages a month,” said Tamashasky.

The person behind the hoax was a 13 year old girl using a voice altering headset microphone.

And telephone apps can make you think you're getting a call from another state when they could be sitting right next to you.

That is why Tamashasky is not surprised this happened to te'o.

"Absolutely. It happens every day. If a quarterback can trick a guy that he handed it off when he didn't what these guys can do online with all of the technology, all of apps and all of the pictures and real world you can steal, it's a no brainer; it's easy,” said Tamashasky.

But is it so easy a star football player at one of the best universities in the country could be duped for so long?

Many just don't believe it.

What if Te'o was involved?

"If it turns out that this is something he fabricated it would be devastating for people, because it would be the death of yet another hero, which is really not something that we need these days,” said Tamashasky.

Tamashasky says unless you have met the person face to face, you should not believe they are who they claim to be.
 

This content requires the latest Adobe Flash Player and a browser with JavaScript enabled. Click here for a free download of the latest Adobe Flash Player.