Talk to enough single people about online dating, and you start hearing some amazing stories. And we’re not talking amazingly good stories, we’re talking about amazingly, bad, sad and sometimes even disgusting. We’re even talking about online dating stories from hell.
Men lie in their online profiles. They lie about their height, they lie about their age (sometimes posting a photo that’s more than 10 years old), and they lie about their marital status. Women lie, too—about their age, about their weight, about their relationship status.
The Manti Te’o Dating Story
But Manti Te’o has an online dating story that’s much, much worse. Manti Te’o, a linebacker for the Notre Dame football team, met a woman online who didn’t even exist.
“I developed an emotional relationship with a woman I met online,” Te’O said this week in an official statement. “We maintained what I thought to be an authentic relationship by communicating frequently online and on the phone, and I grew to care deeply about her. To realize that I was the victim of what was apparently someone's sick joke and constant lies was, and is, painful and humiliating.”
Te’o continued: “In retrospect, I obviously should have been more cautious. If anything good [can come] of this, I hope it is that others will be far more guarded when they engage with people online than I was.”
Online Dating Scam
It turned out that Te’o’s online girlfriend didn’t really exist. It was an elaborate cyber hoax—an online dating scam. He claims the “relationship” started online, and Te’o never met the woman who called herself “Lennay Kekua.” The photo posted online of Lennay Kekua was actually the image of another woman. And someone pretending to be Kekua reportedly spoke to Te’o many times on the phone.
Then the story gets even more bizarre and muddled. Whoever was involved in the hoax convinced Te’o that his cyber girlfriend died leukemia last year—on the very same day that his grandmother died.
Should a smart young man like Manti Te’o have known better? Absolutely. (And there are lots of questions about how much Manti knew, when he knew it, and if he was involved in the hoax.) But taken at "face value," Manti Te’o is not the first person to fall for a fictitious online persona.
Online Dating Tips
To keep from being the victim of an online dating scam, follow these tips:
1. Don’t believe everything you see online. Sometimes cyber singles stretch the truth, and sometimes they stretch it beyond recognition.
2. If it’s too good to be true, it’s probably not true. When someone posts an online profile photo that looks like a Victoria’s Secret model or a Chippendale’s dancer, don’t believe it. Ask for a real photo.
3. Consider getting a separate, prepaid cell phone. That way you won’t be giving out your real phone number to a man (or woman) who turns out to be a creep—or worse.
4. Don’t fall for someone who you haven’t met. Set up a “Meet and Greet” date in a public place. It’s too easy to hide behind the anonymity of an online profile.
5. Don’t make any big, life-changing plans with someone you haven’t met in person. Talking about marriage or agreeing to loan an online stranger a lot of money is just plain dumb.
6. Don’t ignore the red flags. Almost every online dating story from hell includes several things that should have made a logical person wonder if lies were being told. But those red flags were ignored until a heart got broken.
Online Dating Success Stories
Be smart when searching for love in cyberspace, and you won’t fall for an online dating hoax (like Manti Te’o). There are thousands and thousands of online dating success stories, too. By staying level headed and not giving away your heart too soon, you can become one of those success stories.
Chad Stone is the author of Confessions of a Middle-Aged Babe Magnet: One Man’s Brave Adventure into Dating Again in the 21st Century.