Covered in scabs due to a previous meth addiction, and massively obese due to an inability to stop eating junk food, she knew that she herself was not alluring enough to get the job done. But thanks to the internet, she could hide behind a computer screen and pretend to be anyone she said she was. And this, I came to find out, was how she secured her income for over ten years: by pretending to be a guy named Alex Lee. It was brilliant. She had crafted the perfect character.
Teresa became a seducer of women. No one could resist the charms of the vulnerable, mysterious young man with the Southern accent. She was a regular on game sites, dating sites, chat rooms, Facebook, paperback swaps, radio blogs, online art galleries — anywhere people would go to make friends online. She infiltrated private groups, consistently regaling people with the terrible woes of what it was like to be the poor, long-suffering Alex Lee. And her newly acquired friends — every single one of them — believed her stories. She was Alex Lee, the beautiful male angel of darkness, the dying man who existed only to love you, and "his" love for you is what kept "him" alive. I'd met plenty of women in the aftermath of the Alex Lee fallout who had fallen for it too. Even my friends had.
Why Teresa decided to finally confess after all those years, I'll never know. All I know is that when I found out that this man whom I'd spent so much time loving, adoring and caring for was not only not a man, but a really strange hillbilly of a woman — let’s just say, my trust issues soared to new levels. The internet, to me, will never be the same.
Thanks to sensational programs like MTV's Catfish, we can now — as a society — sit back on our comfy couches and make fun of people who fall prey to online romance schemes. Oh what amazing belly laughs we can have and oh, how smart and above it all we can believe ourselves to be, knowing that while there's a sucker born every minute. We sure can have ourselves some good entertainment.
After all, nobody with a brain could fall in love with a total stranger on the internet and be taken seriously, right? My goodness, it's just such an irresistible laugh riot to think these people, these fools, these human beings who were supposed to be smarter than that could actually be tricked into thinking they were dealing with a person who was lying about their identity, and for such an extended period of time. Because nobody in the history of the world has ever made a mistake — especially in matters of love and the heart. And especially when their judgement was compromised.
Yes, I'm being sarcastic.
The show, Catfish, does us all a disservice by soft-soaping the dangers of online romance scams. While I understand the creator's desire to assuage his own personal humiliation at the hands of an online prankster by making these liars and con artists appear as fellow humans who simply did the wrong thing one day, the truth is far from kind. When you are lied to, stolen from and emotionally ripped off by a stranger you found online and developed real feelings for, it's far from entertainment.
To add insult to injury, Teresa's still out there. One day after I outed her, I found her on a SSBBW (super sized big beautiful woman) dating site. Yes, she's been reported to the FBI, and no, she feels no regret and, I would imagine, no hesitancy about doing it all again. Who knows? Perhaps you've already run into her.
The moral of the story? If you find yourself online and vulnerable, talking with someone who claims to have any illness whatsoever (chronic pain, cancer, autism, diabetes, kidney disease — those are her main "tools”), won't show you their photo, and asks for money ... run like hell. The Teresas of the world are legion.
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