My experiences with the bottom feeding world of catfishing has wiggled and slithered from weird to worse.
Last week a message came to my flickr mail from someone claiming to be a producer of a national TV talk show (I’m leaving the name out, but it’s one of the big ones) saying that they were working on a story about someone scammed by a persona using my photos.
I say here “claiming” because in this alternative world you have to almost question the reality of everything and everyone. But they provided an email address with a TV network in it. I found the person in LinkedIn. Maybe legit.
Sometimes I expect a reverse scam by a fake victim. That’s what this stuff does.
As in every message like this I responded with an offer to prove the source of any photos and a link to my page of resources.
They sent a photo that was obviously me, but I could not place it.
In the photo I was in a classroom (whiteboard visible) next to someone, but it was cropped vertically like a mobile phone photo. And kind of blurry. I was not sure the photo was mine. Reverse image searches did nothing, but with some awareness of my own clothes, and when my beard was shaggier I was able to find it from a series of conferences/workshops I did on an overseas trip a few years ago. The scammer had cropped out the colleague I was standing next to. But that was me and my colleague at that conference. Years ago.
Now this TV rep is asking me to come on the show, for some kind of big reveal, claiming that the victim needs proof that I am not the person they have been taken in by. Apparently (I am told) the victim has sent a large sum of money to the person using my photo.
I have negative desire to be on a TV talk show.
I have a line with catfishing victims. I am sorry they got scammed and their trust toyed with. I am willing to provide the source of any photos victims might share. I do not get involved with their stories. I’ve had some who still confuse me with the fake persona they were taken in by. I’ve been threatened with harm from ones who think I am the scammer. My wife has been targeted.
I do not get involved with their stories.
I explained this to the TV show person. I am not interested in being involved. I do not want my name involved.
Next I got a longer message filled with guilt and shame; they said that I am the only one who can clarify the truth for this victim.
Now every other victim who has contacted me has already crashed through to a realization when they see my photos as the originals. The victims are confused, embarrassed but they have become aware on their own.
It’s not my responsibility to prove who I am not.
And this TV show person is now trying to portray me as culpable. And it pisses me off.
Face it- TV people care about one thing- sensationalizing any story to get ratings. Who knows what happens if I were to go on camera? Do they make me out to me the scammer? What if the victim does not believe I am who I am? What happens to my family? What happens to me ethical standing? What if the show makes me out to be “that guy” who… I don’t even have an answer for that. All I know they show has used tactics of manipulation, shame and guilt for their own ends.
They don’t get me. I do not get involved with their stories.
So I am not going on this show. I shared photos of myself on flickr. Someone else lifted my photos to create fake accounts.
No TV for me.
PS. I owe so much to my wife Cori for helping me think this through as well as putting up with the weird characters who show up online bearing my photo as their own.
Featured Image: A slight manipulation of a vintage TV pixabay image by Alexander Antropov. The cord was edited in PhotoShop to not be plugged in, but laying on the floor, the wall paper copied to cover it, and the original plug in the image was covered by the electric outlet pixabay image by Open ClipArt Vectors.