EUGENE, Ore. — What looked like one athlete’s personal tragedy is turning into a national scandal.
Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o has long claimed that the death of his girlfriend inspired him to do his best on the football field. But as it turns out, that girlfriend never existed and Te’o may have been the victim of a cruel prank called “catfishing.”
Not very many people know what catfishing is.
“Essentially what’s happening with these is you have people that create online personas and then reach out to other people through social media and basically have relationships with them that are based on lies,” said Kelly McIver, UO Police spokesman.
It’s a strange issue, but law enforcement say that it’s becoming more and more of a reality. That reality is even playing out in the MTV show Catfish.
“I think here at U of O there’s a lot of people who know what the show is and who know that that kind of thing can happen,” said UO student Kelsey Green.
The host of that show plans to investigate Manti Te’o's encounter with catfishing. And with social media everywhere these days, this scandal seems to be a wake up call for internet users.
“Things are not always as they seem online,” McIver said.
Students we spoke with say it’s not very surprising to hear that people are being exploited on social media.
“You need to be careful what you post because it’s not a free-for-all. People will look at it,” said UO student Jennifer Schrimp.
“I could see how something like this could happen and how someone’s identity could be stolen,” Green said.
“I think you can definitely learn a lot more about people by looking online than most people think,” said UO student Kevin Sullivan.
Even if you’re aware of catfishing and cautious about online relationships, there’s always the risk that your personal photos are being stolen. And with law enforcement already strapped for time, these cases are many times unlikely to be prosecuted.
“You should be aware that pretty much anything you put online is probably gonna be able to be viewed,” McIver said.