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Like Te'o claims, many have been duped by online fakes

By Paul Nelson | Posted - Jan 24th, 2013 @ 11:20am


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SALT LAKE CITY — Manti Te'o's full interview with Katie Couric airs Thursday, where he describes how he fell in love with a woman that didn't exist. Is there any way he could have been tipped off that he was being duped?

Some Utahns say they have also developed relationships with people that weren't who they claimed to be.

David Boyd is a barber that goes to workshops and seminars to train other barbers. He also has blogs and YouTube channels. So, getting a Facebook friend request from a stranger is nothing new to him.

"I'd say only about 30 percent of my friends on Facebook are people I actually know," Boyd said.

So, when he got a friend request from a 26-year-old woman named Raven, he thought nothing of it. Raven and David had similar interest, like photography. Raven told David they should meet in real life.

How to spot a fake profile
Look at the pictures: Guys, beware the "hot girl in a bikini" profile picture. Ruplinger said the vast majority of scammers pretend to be women because men are more likely to click on a link to a fake profile. If the person's profile picture looks like a stock photo from a modeling website, it probably is.

Look at how many people they "tag", and, see who is tagging them back: According to Ruplinger, most people would tag just a few of their friends in the pictures they post.

"A fake profile frequently tags as many as 50 to 100 people per four or five photos," he said.

Plus, Facebook allows people upload pictures of their friends. Those photos are normally put in that person's "Photos of…" album. If the person you're looking at is tagging a lot of people, but, no one seems to be tagging them back, it may be a sign of a problem.

Ask about that person: If they have a couple of mutual friends with you, ask your friend how well they know them.

"If they claim to know your friend, Joe, and your friend, Joe, says, 'Well, they friended me a little while back and I just clicked yes,' that might be a red flag," Ruplinger said.

Look for inconsistencies: Ruplinger said it's important to actually read what they say in their posts. If a teenage girl were to post something only an older man would say, that could be another sign of a fake profile.

"For me, I'm not really that interested in pursuing online meetups," Boyd said.

Raven asked why he didn't want to meet her. He told her about the time when one woman sent constant emails to him, begging that they meet. He felt harassed.

But, to his surprise, she started defending the woman who sent those emails.

"I went back to our private emails, off Facebook, and said, ‘Look, I know it's you,' " he said.

Turns out, the 26-year-old "Raven" really was the same woman who pursued him before. Boyd said the woman, who is really in her mid 40's, used the false persona to stalk him. Had she not asked to meet him, he would have never known it was her. "Raven" seemed more calm and eloquent than her real-life counterpart.

"The personality, the grammar, the spelling, the writing style .. .everything was different," Boyd said.

Manti Te'o isn't the only high profile football player to fall victim to one of these "Catfish" schemes. Four members of the Washington Redskins were also duped by someone with a fake online identity, according to NFL.com.

"When you get accounts like that, the perpetrator will frequently go through a lot of effort to make the account look as real as possible," said Jared Ruplinger, media president with Go Big Social Media.

Ruplinger said that out of the nearly one billion profiles on Facebook, analysts believe nearly 14 million of them are malicious fakes. Some people create a fake profile not to steal personal information, or to scam other out of money, but to live a second life as someone else. These fake profiles are harder to spot. Ruplinger said people who create them have spent weeks, or even months, to create a convincing life story.

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