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Kent: Te'o not the only one caught by 'catfish'

7:32 PM, Jan 17, 2013   |    comments
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Video: 'Catfish' reactions by Kent State students

Matt Cashore/USA Today Sports

KENT -- In a world wherever everything else has gone online, why not first dates on Facebook?

"If you see someone that you are interested in, or want to talk to, you add them as a friend, you can message them, or write on their wall, and if they think that you're worth talking to, they'll talk to you back," said Kent State University sophomore Anthony Tavella.

Kent State students say they know what others are learning through the Manti Te'o scandal: dating someone you've never met, and maybe never will, is more and more common.

"I didn't really know of anyone that would meet, because sometimes girls would find hot guys that lived in California or something and just talk to them, on Facebook and text and stuff, it was just cool," said Natalie Krebs, also a student at Kent.

In high school, Krebs says, "it's for status, it's for fun. It's not something that's...because you're actually trying to be with somebody."

When something seems fishy, it could be. Catfish, the term for someone who uses digital trickery to disguise who they really are, has spawned its own MTV show.

"We can fall victim to these hoaxes very easily. It is so simple for someone to pretend they are someone they're not online," said Kent State Professor Stefanie Moore.

Moore teaches her students to be skeptical online and when using social media. She says it can be easy for you, too, to spot the red flags.

If you're using Facebook, look to see how many friends a person has, or how complete their profile appears. Catfish typically won't be posted in pictures with friends and others.

On Twitter, followers and interaction can be a good indication of a legitimate profile. Read someone's tweets to see if they respond to others or simply send out messages.

On many dating sites, you can use a reverse image search to see where that photo your new online interest emailed you really came from. Two resources Moore recommends are Google's Inside Search, found here, or Tineye.com.

"If you see multiple sources of the same picture, it might tip you off to maybe this person isn't real," she said.

If online searches fail, do your homework says Moore. Pick up the phone and call. Or following Deadspin's lead, look for birth or school records.

While being duped can be embarrassing, it's a lesson to us all to be cautious online and in love.

"You can't love someone if you don't see them and know who they are in person," said Tavella.

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