We all know the saying, ‘truth is stranger than fiction’ and of course, the odd story of Notre Dame Heisman candidate, Manti Teo’o’s online girlfriend would fit the bill perfectly here. But how in our modern day of internet transparency could such a thing occur?
Let’s take a look at the how’s and why’s and most importantly, what you need to do to protect yourself from those internet predators who are constantly seeking the cyber seas for another naïve victim to exploit:
Trust your gut: If this new love of your life seems a little too good to be true, there may be a reason. Do they seem a little too eager to please? A little too available for you? Sometimes people looking for an easy mark will lure their prey in by creating a highly fictional character that appears to be their soul mate. Ask yourself a few questions: Do they also have a Facebook page? If not, ask them why. This could be a huge red flag, if they really are who they say they are than they should have no secrets or hidden parts of their life. If you find them on Facebook, does the information corroborate with what you know of them? Are their family members on their page as well that would lend credence to the person that they claim to be. How old is their account?
Picture Perfect: If your new ‘friend’ sent you a photo, do an online Google search to make sure that their face isn’t turning up in other places and with other names. This could have easily been performed by Manti and would have saved him a huge amount of grief (literally) if he had taken the two minutes and searched the internet for it. The man (yes, it was a man) who faked the whole fake girlfriend scheme to Manti used a photo from a real acquaintance and passed it off as himself (herself?) to ease Manti’s worried mind. And from there, the whole mess just got stickier as he/she soon after passed away on the same day as Manti’s grandmother and then turned up ‘alive’ again soon after.
Be your own Detective: If after starting your online relationship has proceeded fairly smoothly, do your own background check, just to protect yourself from falling victim to someone else’s nefarious intentions. A site like Online Searches can quickly find the answers to the person whom you are currently acquainted with. For a nominal fee you can either confirm that they are who they say there, or quickly end the relationship before it gets too far gone. After all, the news is filled with stories of those who ended up being bilked into losing their savings or having their heartbroken (or worse) by a swindler. By performing an online background search, it can give you that peace of mind, plus they will never know that you searched for them.
At the end of the day, you can never be too careful. Using the internet can be a great way to meet someone and can lead you own your way to an exciting romance but it can also set you up for disaster if you’re not careful. Use the internet as a great tool to protect yourself and your trust in people. You never know, your soul mate might just be out there waiting for you, just take your time and be smart as you would be with anyone you meet.
Colter Brian is a former private investigator/photographer and now a freelance writer. When he writes, he contributes to sites such as Online Searches. Some of Colter's hobbies include spending time in the outdoors and perfecting his pasta recipes for his toughest critics; namely his two children.