Manti Te'o's Fake Online Relationship Sounds Unbelievable but It Could Happen to Anyone

Poor Manti Te'o. After the football player had his "girlfriend," the one who supposedly died of leukemia, exposed as an elaborate hoax, everyone is wondering: Could Manti have been this naive? Or could he have been in on it to gain positive media attention? Manti admitted:

This is incredibly embarrassing to talk about, but over an extended period of time, I developed an emotional relationship with a woman I met online ... To realize that I was the victim of what was apparently someone's sick joke and constant lies was, and is, painful and humiliating.

Yikes. Sure is. But how could a grown man fall for such a scheme? Well, it's not that uncommon. In fact, I have a friend who may have fallen for something similar. After a year of "dating" a guy she was in constant contact with online, she finally decided he was a fraud.

Here are six ways you might know your online relationship is fake.


Pictures. Pictures of your online love should tell a story -- and that story shouldn't be a static one. If you are weeks or even months into a relationship and the only pics you've seen of your digital darling are the same ones you saw when you first met, then something is up. If your honey tells you he or she went to a park, ask to see a pic of him or her in the park. In other words, make sure the pics that are coming are new ones and fit in with the narrative of his or her life.

Meeting. It's a huge red flag if your online pal won't meet up with you -- no matter what excuses he or she comes up with. Manti says he flew to Hawaii to meet up with "Lennay Kekua," his supposed girlfriend, but she "never showed." That should have been a major hint then that "Lennay" was "Liarnay". Online fraudsters are often geniuses at making up excuses for why they can't meet in person.

Video. If your honey can't meet in person, he or she should at least be able to Skype or videochat. Again, if there are excuses about that, then there's a problem.

Time of day. If your online sweetie always contacts you around the same time every day or night, be wary. He or she is probably unable to speak at other times -- probably because the real life spouse or kids are around.

Complex stories/illnesses. "Lennay" had supposedly been in a bad car accident and also had leukemia. Fakers often use drama and illness to cover up a wide array of holes in their stories and to keep their victim hooked with sympathy. It's hard to question someone who is supposedly dying -- and someone who is dying has a convenient reason to suddenly disappear. If your online love ever claims to be sick or in an accident, ask which hospital they were in and then call that hospital to confirm.

Money. If you're ever asked to send money to an online friend -- whether it's for a plane ticket to come see you, for school, or for some "emergency" -- be wary.

People get into deep online relationships for a variety of reasons -- but the main reason is usually that, for whatever reason, they aren't quite ready for a "real life" relationship. Someone who offers love and companionship over the phone and Internet can hold a lot of appeal for someone who isn't ready for the demands of a real world partnership. If you find yourself in one of these online relationships, ask yourself why you're in it and what exactly you're getting out of it.

Have you ever been in an online relationship?


Image via Wikipedia Commons

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