Manti Te'o and the Internet Girlfriend that Never Was

Or how to avoid being the victim of an internet love scam. Manti Te'o is an Americam college football star who allegedly was a victim of an internet love scam. In US parlance, it is called Catfish - the title of a 2010 movie that brought a similar incident of online dating trickery to the big screen, and a 2012 MTV show of the same name.

This is a situation whereby one enters a long-term relationship with someone they meet online, without ever meeting them in real life. Only as it turns out, their lover is made up, or not who they say they are. This is what happened to Manti Te'o, and in his case, he dated a lady, who then later 'died'. There is more to the story, which is why the football player is making the news, but I want to look at the Catfish angle.

As most of you will know, I met Atala on the internet, we were in the UK, but in the later part, he was in the US. For over a year, we both participated in an online community, gradually getting to know each other, before we began to exchange private and personal messages. When we did decide to pursue a romantic relationship, one thing I insisted on was that we had to meet before anyone really started catching deep feelings.

This was six months after we started talking, and by then we couldn't deny that we already cared for each other. However, there was a moratorium on the L-word and that held until Atala showed me he was really into the relationship by buying his ticket and hauling himself across the Atlantic. We were now satisfied that one, the other existed as who they said they were, two, we liked what we were saying, and three our real-life connection was even stronger. The rest as they say is history.

In a way therefore, I can understand Manti Te'o, and starting a relationship on the internet. What baffles me is why you would date someone for so long, and be so easily deceived? These days there's new technology that help couples connect beyond pictures, phone calls and emails which can be forged.

To be sure it's not a hairy 60years old you're professing love to, a girl can use webcam, Google video chat, Facetime, Skype, etc. Even if his age and handsome features match his pictures, you can Google, and also check their Linkedin, Twitter and Facebook to verify their job, family, friends, etc.

Those who successfully date for 3 or more years without ever meeting are very few and far between, and the spaces in between are where love scammers, aka catfishes reside. So whether it is US state lines that separate you, like Manti and his fake girlfriend, or an ocean like Atala and myself, I believe that any online romance should not pass 6 months to a year without at least one offline meeting. That is of course if the couple are serious with their relationship, and are thinking of taking it offline after a certain time.

If people don't do that, they may find themselves victims like Manti Te'o.

Who has ever fallen victim of a Catfish, or known others who were victims? And why do you think people leave themselves in a situation to get catfished?