High profile story of Manti Te'o and dead, non-existent girlfriend sheds light on catfishing

TULSA - While it remains unclear what involvement, if any, Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o had in an elaborate hoax in which he fell in love with a fake person who later died, questions over catfishing have arisen.

Catfishing is when an individual assumes another person's identity and uses that identity to pursue an online relationship or romance via social media.

Te'o, the Heisman trophy runner-up, whose story about losing his grandmother and girlfriend in a six hour span made national headlines throughout the football season, is the victim of a hoax, according to Notre Dame and a statement he released.

READ: 'Te'o speaks day after hoax firestorm' (http://bit.ly/ESPNteo)

The sports website that broke the story, deadspin.com, isn't so sure Te'o isn't culpable.

READ: 'Manti Te'os dead girlfriend is a hoax' (http://bit.ly/Teodeadspin)

One thing that can be surmised from the story is that the issue of catfishing has become a popular topic. Some believe Te'o was in fact duped and that his now fake girlfriend, Lennay Kekua, was created by someone trying to catfish Te'o.

Cindy W. Morrison, a social media strategist in Tulsa, says a person can have thousands of friends through social media sites like Facebook, but true relationships involve face to face contact.

"Social media doesn't make a relationship. A relationship is where you actually see each other eye to eye, and even you still have to do your investigation," she said. "A con artist is a con artist whether they do it online or whether they do it in person."

While some might worry about being catfished, there is of course the possibility that your likeness could be used as the bait. Morrison says you should research yourself online.

"I think you should always Google yourself and see if anyone is using your identity online. You always need to do a credit check, but the fact is, once you post a picture that's out there, it's out there for anyone to clip, copy and use as their own," she said.




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