I initially started online dating about 20 years ago. In Australia at the time, it was almost unheard of, as few people even had access to the internet. There was certainly no term called “catfished” .
Due to my profession in IT, I was working at the Sydney Opera House as Head of IT, and was building then one of the First Online Booking systems on the Internet. As I was investigating this new fangled thing called the Internet, I happened to stumble upon a site called MATCH.COM. When a friend of mine and I had visited Jamaica a few years earlier, we had met a few couples from the USA, who had met online and we thought this amazing and unheard of back in OZ. Anyway, I was single at the time and thought why not, let’s give it ago. I created a profile, loaded up my best picture, and sat back to see what would happen. There were very few people from Australia listed on the site, and those that were, were mostly, like me in the field of IT.
It wasn’t long before I got lots of replies, mostly from the USA and a few from England. One in particular caught my interest because he was so articulate. He described himself as an African-American, about 45 years of age, a wealthy entrepreneur who lived in New York. To protect the not so innocent, let’s say he called himself, Charles Bloggs the III. He had no Picture (ah ha!!! now the first hint), but said it was because he was too well-known in the business world. That seemed all Kosher to me. We conversed via the site for probably 2 months. I have to say that whilst I was still very sceptical of the process, I had become intrigued. I won’t lie, I also became a little emotionally invested. I wouldn’t say I fell in love, because for me, I need more reality for that to happen. Charlie boy then asked if he could call. I said sure. When then we started to speak on the phone, it definitely became more personal and more real. He started sending flowers and little gifts. He was so specific about what he did for a living, that it seemed impossible that anyone could be bothered to go into so much detail without it being true. He seemed very knowledgable on the topic. He said he wrote software to control traffic lights. He said he was always travelling to Europe and was interested in getting in on the ground floor of the mobile phone business in Asia. It all sounded very viable and he seemed to know lot about the topic.
Anyway this went on for a couple of months and we started to speak of the possibility of actually meeting. He then started to talk the “L” word and the possibility of marriage. His emails seemed to become more and more grandiose. This all started to get me a little spooked. So, being the cynic I am, I decided to hire a Private Investigator to see if he checked out. In the US this was quite easy to do, so I emailed a company based in New York to get a quote. The guys were lovely and for the grand sum of $500, they agreed to do a full background check based on the information Charlie boy had provided. I sent them copies of all of his emails.
The results came back quickly, that whilst he did actually really exist, he had grossly misrepresented both his social and financial status. He did actually live in New York but not quite the address he had listed. He certainly was no wealthy entrepreneur.
I am a Scorpio, I don’t get angry, I get even. I just couldn’t see the point of the waste of all of my time. He hadn’t asked for anything, just made up lots of crap and it all seemed so ridiculous. So, based on what I had learned about his tastes over the past few months, I decided to do a bit of “catfishing” of my own. I created 2 different female profiles, named Kelly and Kylie and posted a profile for each on Match.com. They both were very different but each had certain elements of me in them. They each approached him online and it wasn’t long before he replied. For someone who was madly professing love for me, responding to 2 other women was hardly ideal behaviour. It became like episodes of ‘Days of our Lives’. The wives of the guys at the Private Investigators and my own friends all became invested in the ‘Grand Production‘ of revenge. Every email the 2 fake girls sent him and every reply from him was copied to all of them, in weekly installments. If Kylie asked him what his favourite beach in Australia was, he would call the real me and ask about my favourite beaches. Then he would email Kylie, and tell her all the information he had just gotten from me. For about a month this went on and I gradually weaved into the girls own lives, the possibility that we all actually knew each other. He started to make plans to meet Kelly in Byron Bay (based on my recommendation), which of course he finally couldn’t make due to a major business commitment. He started professing love to both of the fakes as well.
It was all very amusing for a while but I then got bored. He had gone from being a wealthy entrepreneur to me, to a virtual Billionaire to the other girls. Every email became more hilarious and more outrageous. I decided to end it by calling him out and told him the truth. He was most indignant and didn’t understand what he had done wrong. He insisted he wasn’t lying.
This was much to the horror of my growing audience who had become addicted to his ravings. The wives of the PI’s had starting circulating the “series’ to all of their friends and to them it was like announcing the demise of a favourite TV show.
So long before there was a term for it, and a TV show dedicated to it, I think I caught me one of the very first Catfish. It was an amusing interlude that made me some friends in the US that I eventually went on to visit a year later. I was smart enough to not get my heart broken and I can now pick a fake profile online in the first email.
The term is now so common it has made the Urban Dictionary
Having a fake facebook profile, images and avatar in order to lure people to have romantic feelings. They are then catfished when the victim realises the person they have fallen for via facebook is not who they APPEAR to be.