In early December 2015, we were contacted by Antonio, a businessman from California. He had been in an online relationship with Andrea for over a year. Andrea lived halfway across the country and things had been going well, but Antonio had become suspicious of her recent activities.
They met through an online dating site. Over the year, they had exchanged messages and photos and flirted with each other. But nothing more. When they first met, Antonio was married; Andrea was single and had just gotten out of a bad relationship. They had plans to meet each other on a number of occasions, but for one reason or another, the plans always got cancelled.
Andrea, who was a nurse, at some point had asked for a few hundred dollars to pay her cable bill. She had gotten behind on her bills and Antonio was happy to help.
Antonio ultimately divorced his wife and decided that he wanted to finally meet Andrea in person. He planned to meet her in Boston one weekend in late November. Andrea cancelled at the last minute. While Antonio dismissed the previous cancellations, this one bothered him. He had already taken the flight and was in his hotel in Boston.
He decided to do something about it. He rented a car and drove to the suburbs and went to the address where she said she was building her new house.
But there was no house in sight.
Antonio’s growing suspicions reached a boiling point.
When Antonio contacted us, he wanted answers. He had suspicions that Andrea wasn’t a real person. But she always seemed to have an answer for every question he had. So he asked us to look into it and to determine whether Andrea was in fact a real person.
Hearing this for the first time, I was almost certain that Antonio had been lured into a relationship by someone who was using a fictional online persona (catfished). The fact that Andrea would constantly cancel plans and the fact that they have spoken on dozens of occasions, but never with live video, made me really suspicious.
He provided me with an address where she lived, her date of birth and even the type of car that she had. He also supplied a few pictures.
I explained to Antonio that there were two possible scenarios: Andrea was either a complete figment of someone’s imagination or (the more likely scenario) Andrea was a real person, just not exactly who he had imagined. The best con artists can completely make up a persona and keep all of their lies straight but, in most situations, you will find that these people sprinkle in details of truth with their fiction.
We quickly found Andrea. She was, in fact, a real person. She lived where she said she lived and was born when she said she was born.
But her story fell apart from there.
She did work at a nursing home for a short period of time, but she wasn’t a licensed nurse (as she had described).
She lived in the house that she said she lived in, but the car was not hers. She didn’t own a car. In fact, she was still living with that boyfriend whom she had supposedly broken up with.
And the icing on the cake was her Facebook profile, which we found despite that fact that it was under a fake name. She was careful enough not to post any photos of herself, but her family members weren’t. After identifying a number of her siblings and her mother on Facebook, we found some photos of Andrea.
You guessed it. She was not the muscular, short, young Hispanic woman in the pictures she had sent to Antonio — she was a tall, heavy-set Caucasian.
After looking through Andrea’s Facebook friends, it turns out that Andrea had taken the photos she sent Antonio from one of her high school friend’s pages.
Armed with this information, Antonio confronted Andrea, who naturally denied everything until he threatened to go the police.
Hopefully, Antonio (and Andrea) have learned their lessons.
(Names and details have been changed to protect identities.)