My High School Catfish Tale: I was duped hook, line and sinker
By: EJ Proctor, Social Media Coach at The Social Institute
As I scrolled through Facebook one afternoon during high school, one of the people Facebook recommended I friend was an attractive guy named Jake Moonan. So, being a curious high school girl, I sent the friend request.
Jake’s profile said he went to a private school in my hometown, and was dating a girl I knew in a different town. Seems normal, right? He accepted my friend request, and we began talking via messenger. It was friendly and I even mentioned knowing of his girlfriend and how great she seemed, and so on. At some point, I asked him why he went to a school near me, yet I had not heard of him, and he told me he was only there for a few weeks, and then moved to a different town to live with his aunt because his parents died in a car crash!
“Wow,” I thought, “this kid has it tough.”
A few weeks passed, we didn’t talk, and I thought nothing of it. Then, he messaged me and told me his girlfriend broke up with him. We started off as friends; I consoled him, he told me all of his life’s struggles, and before I knew it…I started to crush on him. He told me he had his license, and I didn’t, so I asked him to come visit me. He only lived an hour away, so this would have been an easy weekend drive. He said he’d love to come visit soon!
Oh man!! This is so exciting!
The time came around for him to visit, and he ended up bailing on me. I was down, but I remember he had some good reason, so I didn’t let it get to me. A few days after, one of his cousins (with whom he lived) messaged me telling me Jake was “really bummed” he couldn’t visit me, but was “definitely coming in a couple of weekends!” His friends, who he had a lot of pictures with, even started to friend me and like my pictures/posts.
Okay, so he does like me! Even his cousin reached out to me and all of his friends are sending me friend requests! I’m in!
A month or so went by with this same pattern. He’d tell me he was going to come visit, and when the time came, he’d have a reason he couldn’t. The last time this happened, he texted me and said something like, “Hey! Getting into my car now to head your way! What’s your address?”
My young, naive self not thinking of the possible danger of giving out my address to a rando replied giving him my address. Ugh.
About 30 minutes passed and he texted me and said, “I’m so sorry, I just got really sick and almost fainted. My aunt is coming to get me.”
I’m sure I felt bad, but also thought, what the heck?! What is going on!
I must have questioned his excuse this time, because a few hours later he told me this…brace yourself.
THIS GUY TOLD ME HE HAD CANCER and was scared to tell me because he thought I might not like him.
Cancer is close to my heart, so I felt absolutely terrible and showed him empathy; however, at this point, I talked to my mom. She knew about this guy I had been in contact with, but this was the first time I told her I was questioning his legitimacy.
My mom was incredible. She said, “Okay, let’s do some searching.” She sat down and looked at his profile, and saw he had a jersey with a mascot’s name on it. She asked me what sports he said he played and I told her everything I knew. She could not find any pictures of him on the high school he claimed he went to, nor at any high school in NC that had a mascot matching the one on his jersey.
She began to Google high schools throughout the United States that had this mascot. When she narrowed it down to those, she did searches for his name throughout school sports write ups, specifically for the sports he said he played. Nothing showed up. So, she tried searching in all the same places except this time, she used only his last name.
A high school in New York with the same mascot and school colors, had a baseball player with the same last name, same jersey number, same size. When we looked at a picture, it was him! But…it wasn’t. Jake was not his first name. I can’t remember what I thought in that moment, but I remember my mom and I kept digging. We looked up this guy’s Facebook- it was the same as “Jake’s”. The same pictures, the same friends, same family (except this guy’s parents were alive, thankfully). It was all the same.
I reached out to the guy we found from New York and basically said, “Look man, did you make a fake Facebook and pretend to live in NC as Jake Moonan?” This guy thought I was absolutely whack and when he tried to search Jake, nothing came up. Turns out, the person operating this “Jake” account had the foresight to block him. I reported Jake’s page and blocked him, and never looked back.
Long story short: I unknowingly gave my name, address, phone number, and other personal details to a total stranger. All I know is that he took the time to create an entire copy of a New York kid’s Facebook, along with that of his entire friends, and make fake profiles of all of them.
What kind of person does that? It would take hours to create and operate all of those accounts. That’s a lot of commitment and a lot of planning.
Ten years have passed since I was the victim of a catfish scheme, and here’s what I wish I
had done differently:
I wish I did not friend someone I didn’t know IRL. I thought it was okay since we had a lot of mutual friends, but that decision turned out to be a mistake.
I wish I had never have given someone my address that I did not know. Even though that information can often be found through online searches, it does not justify willingly telling strangers.
I wish I’d huddled with my Mom sooner. She was a champ. She never judged me or made me feel stupid, she just wanted to get to the bottom of this and help me out.
I wish I had recognized then how suspicious it was that we never talked on the phone. All our communication occurred through text, Facebook messages, or writing letters. #sketch
The cool thing is, I learned a lot. I learned how to be active on all social media platforms, but to be smart about it. I learned to trust my gut and not give my address out to strangers. I even learned how to properly track someone down via Google from my tech savvy Mom -if need be.
To top it off, I learned that social media is an incredible world in its own, and it has so much power to be used for good if we know HOW to do that. Most importantly, I learned that we need a good group of people around us to navigate these tricky scenarios we can get ourselves in, and that person was my Mom. Maybe parents can be more helpful with social than we think!
EJ Proctor is a Social Media Coach at The Social Institute, where she coaches students, parents, and educators at schools nationwide to win at social media. EJ knows a thing or two about winning. A former professional soccer player, EJ was drafted to Utah Royals F.C. in 2018 to play in the National Women’s Soccer League. Prior to that she was an All-American scholar athlete for Duke Women’s Soccer and now holds every goalkeeping record in Duke’s history. A positive role model who grew up with social media, she now inspires the next generation to use social for good.