National spotlight on 'catfishing' following Te'o scandal

POSTED: Tuesday, January 22, 2013 - 8:00pm

UPDATED: Tuesday, January 22, 2013 - 8:04pm

With recent development in the Te’o scandal, national attention is being focused on what's known as "catfish" scams.

But why would someone be deliberately deceptive online? And how does it affect the victims?

“In many ways, Manti was the perfect mark because he is a guy who is so willing to believe in others and so ready to help," stated Notre Dame Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick.

He summed up why he says Manti Te’o fell prey to the cruel hoax that Manti's online girlfriend "Lennay Kekua" did not die tragically from leukemia, and in fact, wasn't a real person.

According to psychiatrist Dr. Clark Smith, it takes a certain type of person to create such a horrible lie, "It might be somebody who just wants to take power over somebody to control their lives to humiliate them. Basically, if they humiliate someone else it makes them feel better."

Dr. Smith says social media is the perfect platform to prey on victims, especially young people.

"People in college now have grown up with social media and they really rely on it to a very big extent." The problem he says is many people blindly trust social media.

Even veteran journalists got duped by this hoax, writing columns about how this was a storybook season for Notre Dame, as the team struggled with heartache while vying for the BCS Championship.

"You can't put something on the air that you don't know to be true,” said Clark. “People are getting very sloppy with that, and I think anybody that reads something on the internet that reads something unbelievable don't believe it."

"It's a humiliation that's going to be a blow to his (Te’o’s) self-esteem. He may never get over it."

So as a parent, how do you protect your kids from internet scams and catfishing?

It may be time to have another chat about how to stay safe online, especially since kids are so tech savvy. It's important to teach them how to protect themselves and use technology the right way.

"It's a good teaching tool. I'm sorry that it had to happen to this young man, but I'm certainly using this story in my own home as an example," stated McAfee Chief Privacy Officer Michelle Dennedy.

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