Notre Dame's Manti Te'o has made headlines recently, not for his athletic talent, but for being the victim of an online social media hoax.
It's called "Catfishing", taken from a documentary and now television show called "Catfish" that shows how often people are duped online by fake internet profiles.
“People are such good liars now a day that you can’t tell what's truth and what's not,” said Dr. Fran Kimbrough, a Bryan psychologist. “In this day and age, it’s hard to have a personal relationship. It’s the next best thing...and again, its fantasy.”
Dr. Kimbrough says she's treated clients who discovered the person they were involved with online, is completely different in person.
“The consequences can be more than you realize it can be. These are people’s feelings and emotions that you're really dealing with,” said Kimbrough
Madelyn Raine says she was the victim of an online hoax. Like many people in their 20's, Raine has accounts on several social media sites.
“I felt just extremely violated,” said Raine.
Raine says discovered the hoax when a friend asked if she had a second Facebook account under the name “Jessica Jardine”.
“I type in this girls name and I look through her profile pictures and they're all pictures of me,” said Raine. “It felt like my identity was being stolen.”
Raine confronted the so-called "Jessica Jardine" through a Facebook message. The person never responded, and the account disappeared in less than 24 hours.
“I don't know who she could have been,” said Raine. Raine doesn’t even know if Jardine was really a woman.
A College Station man intentionally tricked someone online, because of a personal grudge. He asked to remain anonymous to avoid judgment from his peers.
“Essentially what I did was I created this character that seemed like the ideal girlfriend that he wanted,” said the man.
The College Station man says he studied the other man’s interests, and then created an online woman the victim would feel connected to.
“I made them tell me intimate details about their personal life, show up to events that I wasn't there at two or three hours away,” explained the College Station man. “I would have never ever done this to a stranger.”
He says he isn't a bad person and he doesn't feel bad about what he did. He decided to share his story to show people how easy it is to become a victim online, and how easy it is to avoid.
Even though meeting people online is pretty common now, experts say there are ways to protect yourself from online hoaxes
1) It's a red flag if someone makes excuses and avoids meeting you in person.
2) When you do meet up for the first time, you should bring a friend just in case.
3) Experts say it's a good idea to be cynical when it comes to online relationships. It's easy for people to misrepresent themselves using social media, so it’s better to be safe rather than sorry.