Catfishing schemes and what to look out for
BATON ROUGE - It's a scam that involves tricking someone into a relationship online for financial gain.
"They're looking for money," said Donna Hoven. "They make their living this way by stealing money from innocent people."
Catfishing is when online predators pretend to be someone else and hide behind someone else's identity. It's something Hoven says she's been learning about first hand since she says a catfisher friended her on Facebook.
"It took him about three days to tell me that he loved me," she said.
The scheme is a lot more common than may people think. Hoven says her conversation began on Oct. 23 with a man named Sylvester Kewell. She says about four days in, the catfisher asked for her hand in marriage and produced a photo of a ring.
The conversation started out innocently enough. The catfisher says he's from New York and works as a doctor for the United Nations and is currently based in Syria. He's a widower with a 13-year-old son living and going to school in New York.
The catfisher asks about Hoven's occupation, if she believes in "distance relationships," and if she could download "WhatsApp." The person posing as Sylvester Kewell asks for photos of Hoven and sends photos in return. Before long, the catfisher asks if Hoven can transfer $500 to Islip, New York so his son can buy food.
Hoven says she told the catfisher it would be a few days before she could get the money.
"He said, "Well, it'd be better if you could send it right now,'" she said.
All the while, Hoven notices the catfisher's poor grammar and how he's dodging questions. He sends "love quotes" that appear to be copied and pasted from the Internet.
"The English is broken," said Hoven.
After a closer look, 2 On Your Side was able to reveal the identity of the person in Sylvester Kewell's photos as Dr. Andy Baldwin from ABC's season 10 of The Bachelor. Over the years, Baldwin's photos have been used frequently for various online scams. The real-life doctor and US Naval Officer lives in San Diego, CA.
Earlier this year, Hoven says someone she knows, fell victim to a catfisher that contacted her through Facebook. That person lost $27,000 at the hand of the catfisher, who she has never met face to face.
Hoven fears the catfisher could be doing this to others and while she was quick enough to recognize the signs of a catfisher, she worries about others who don't.
"There could be a lot of reasons that make them vulnerable to this type of thing," she said. "These people prey on those people."
There are a few ways to protect yourself from a catfisher online. They include a reverse image search on Google, challenging the person to a video chat, asking difficult questions, and using common sense.