Taking The Bait: A Darker Catfish Tale
Written by Andrea Duke
We probably can all admit that at some point recently we’ve indulged in a new MTV guilty pleasure called Catfish. The show features oblivious teens that fall in love online with complete strangers. More often than not, these gullible lovesick adolescents end up brokenhearted, angry and confused after meeting the “love of their life”.
While these disappointments make for great reality television, there are often darker online dating stories that are never revealed in the media. My story is not a lighthearted one like the ones we see on Catfish, nor is it as ridiculous as Manti Te’o’s saga. This is simply a true cautionary tale that should be read by anyone who is considering online dating.
I joined a free dating website around two years ago because I was feeling desperate for a relationship. I skeptically went on a date or two, none of which ended up panning out to anything but friendships. Frustrated, I deleted my profile for almost a year, but then I found myself reverting back to browsing through profiles of young professionals, students, and ComicCon rejects.
Messages would filter into my inbox, most of which were deleted, but one finally caught my eye. He was pretty much a real life Ken Doll. I optimistically gave him my number and he called me a few days later. The conversation was kind of odd, so I decided he wasn’t worth it and I began ignoring him.
Eventually he stopped calling. But a few months later he began calling again, and feeling confident, I began to answer. We talked for hours, sharing personal details of our lives. But the same suspicious feelings kept creeping up.
Things he said didn’t add up. He didn’t have a Facebook. He wouldn’t video chat. And the biggest red flag? He refused to meet in a public place; he always insisted we meet at his apartment.
After coming to the sickening realization that I was being “Catfished”, I began to do some research. I searched Google for his photos, the company he said he worked for, and other details he’d told me about himself. I found absolutely nothing.
This time my gut was screaming loud enough for me to hear. I listened to that nagging feeling that this person was not who he said he was. I began to ignore him for good and I accepted the fact that I had been gullible enough to believe perfection like that could exist.
A few weeks later I got a phone call that confirmed all of my suspicions. A U.S. Marshal contacted me asking to speak with me immediately about a man I had been talking to from a dating website. My hands began to shake and I felt sick, but I knew I had to find out who this person really was.
My meeting with the Marshal was unbelievably eye-opening. We sat down, and he turned his Macbook towards me, showing me a mug shot of a man in his late 50’s, overweight, with gray hair and a crooked, creepy smile. I couldn’t decide if I was going to bawl or throw up. This is who had been hiding behind the computer screen, a man 30 years older than me. Not the attractive, young, self-made man I had envisioned.
He had previously been arrested for luring a young woman to his home, where he assaulted her. Out on probation, he had retreated back to his awful habit of preying on gullible young women on free dating sites.
I left the meeting feeling completely vulnerable, embarrassed, disgusted, paranoid, and angry; the list goes on. Mentally, this situation left me unstable. I refused to be in Atlanta by myself, just knowing that any stranger I came in contact with could be him. To this day, I still have no confirmation of the status of the case, or the whereabouts of this man, but thankfully the paranoia has subsided.
Yes, my story is slightly terrifying and unbelievable, but unfortunately no one is immune to this type of online masquerade. My advice is not to avoid online dating because sometimes it works! I just ask that you learn from my story by using common sense and listening to your gut when dating online. There are plenty of fish in the sea of online dating, just make sure you’re not nibbling at the wrong bait. Read these 5 Tips On Protecting Yourself When Online Dating.
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Andrea Duke is a journalism graduate from Georgia State University in Atlanta. She is currently working as a Communications Coordinator for a international financial services company. She loves food, craft beer and English Premiere League soccer and believes the combination of the three is heaven on earth. Chat with her about her story on Twitter: @wild_trapeze