As amazing as it may seem, I've managed to spill exactly zero words about the Manti Te'o "catfished" debacle. It's taken an incredible act of restraint. Or something. But now that the U.S. State Department has officially chimed in on ways you, the innocent Internet user, can avoid becoming the next Te'o, well, I'm breaking my silence.
Don't thank me, thank the State Department.
According to the USA.gov blog, "The Internet makes it easy for people to create fake identities, using other people's pictures to pretend they are attractive and interested in you." Because of this scary new world we live in, the State Department has issued a comprehensive warning, including tips to help you recognize a potential catfisher and avoid being scammed by someone who's not actually attractive, and isn't actually interested in you.
The tips include:
Romance scams involve one or more - sometimes all - of the key signs below:
The scammer and the victim meet online - often through Internet dating or employment sites.
The scammer asks for money to get out of a bad situation or to provide a service.
Photographs that the scammer sends of "him/herself" show a very attractive person. The photo appears to have been taken at a professional modeling agency or photographic studio.
The scammer has incredibly bad luck-- often getting into car crashes, arrested, mugged, beaten, or hospitalized -- usually all within the course of a couple of months. They often claim that their key family members (parents and siblings) are dead. Sometimes, the scammer claims to have an accompanying child overseas who is very sick or has been in an accident.
The scammer claims to be a native-born American citizen, but uses poor grammar indicative of a non-native English speaker. Sometimes the scammer will use eloquent romantic language that is plagiarized from the Internet.
Want more? Of course you do. You can read the State Department's full warning here.