VANCOUVER, Wash. – While Notre Dame football player Manti Te’o’s story is unusual, it’s not the first time someone’s been duped into a fake online relationship.
The practice has been going on long enough that there’s actually a term for it. It’s called catfishing.
The 2010 film, “Catfish”, documented a case of a man falling for a fictitious woman. The person behind the scheme used a Vancouver woman’s photo as if it were her own, and fabricated an entire back story to go with it.
The documentary explains that when shipping cod overseas, catfish are placed in the tank to keep the cod moving and prevent their meat from becoming soft. The film refers to the people who keep you on your toes and keep you guessing in life as catfish.
Katie Laughton says she sympathizes with Manti Te’o, if he is indeed a victim of a catfish. Laughton said she was reeled in by someone posing as a man named Stephano, who turned out to be a woman named Stephanie.
“We were talking. Some things were off,” said Laughton. “When I hung up, I did some research. She had posted a picture of her brother on her web page.”
Laughton said it’s embarrassing to admit that the great catch you’ve been telling everyone about doesn’t actually exist.
“I basically made a phone call… ‘I know who you are,’” she said. “Your identity is nothing to be ashamed of. You shouldn’t have to pretend to be someone else.”
She said if Te’o is the victim of a catfish, as he claims, she understands his reluctance to disclose the truth. She hopes others can learn from her story.
“I don’t think they intend to hurt people,” she said. “That’s really what ends up happening.”