Learn From Catfish & Manti Te’o Hoax: Online Dating Safety Lessons

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By Elise Sole

What can we learn from the highly publicized hoax involving Notre Dame’s star linebacker Manti Te’o whose deceased girlfriend Lennay Kekua was discovered to have never existed this week?
If the 2010 documentary Catfish taught us anything, it’s not that you can’t trust the pretty painter with an angelic singing voice who sends you care packages and sings you love songs (although that’s true, too): It’s that the film is a reflection of a very scary real-life trend.  In 2011, Joan Romano, a divorced single mom from New York gave $25,000 over a six-month period to an Afghanistan-based soldier named “Austin Miller,” a man she had met and developed feelings for through Match.com, who turned out to be a random scammer from Ghana. That same year, Harvard College alumni and Hollywood television producer Carole Markin was assaulted by a man she met (and apparently thought she trusted) on Match.com. And Debbie Best, a 50-year-old residential habilitation trainer and employment specialist from Butte, Montana told The Huffington Post that she fell in love with long-distance boyfriend, a man named John Scofield through the Christian dating site website Mingle2.com in 2012 and ended up funneling him $1,000 and her credit credit information.

Should these people bear at least some of the responsibility for opening their hearts and wallets to men who are in essence, complete strangers? Some might think so, but according to psychologist Scott Haltzman, M.D., author of Surviving Secrets of Infidelity (June 2013), falling victim to such scams is easier than you may think.
“It’s surprisingly common for the average person to get swept up in online scams, especially romantic ones,” says Haltzman. “The two people communicating have the opportunity to present polished versions of themselves in emails and text messages, crafting idealized personas that may not be real. And since both parties have no context for each other’s behavior otherwise, they’re likely to give each other the benefit of the doubt.” Read on for tips: Original Story

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