#EDITORSNOTE: MY CATFISHING ORDEAL – A TALE OF SVETLANA AND “DESMOND”
Catfishing is luring someone into a relationship by means of a fictional online persona.
We all dread scam e-mails that come in our inbox and thankfully, in this day and age, many of us have developed enough of an awareness to identify maliciousness. You might click on that message in your inbox from an unfamiliar sender, telling you to click on this or log-onto that, whether it be on your e-mail or social media accounts. You take one look and realize right away it isn’t legitimate. You then discard and chuck into your virtual trash bin. But have you ever wondered what it’s like to have someone steal your images and go on to “catfish” innocent unsuspecting people who might not know better? It happened to me.
Having been active on social media for many years now, I have been fairly gratuitous in putting myself out there. Some things I post do stand the test of time, some things I go back to a few minutes later and delete. There is a fine line between balancing my private life and the public persona I wish to portray. I want to put my most authentic self out there, yet never make myself too vulnerable. Let’s face it, there are people out there with ill intentions.
In my years on social media, I’ve had some truly messed-up things happen to me. Once, someone sent my photo to Security at an event I was planning on attending – it was a Jessica Simpson event for crying out loud – falsely presenting me as a dangerous offender, which shockingly worked in getting me ejected for no reason. That happened multiple times actually before I confronted the person responsible. They’ve left me alone ever since. I recall having one reader who would click on my page up too 200 times a night in the wee hours of the morning, which made me super-uncomfortable. I got followed home once and had my address posted on Twitter. People have mimicked me on social media trying to phish information from unsuspecting victims, which I successfully have been able to get shut-down thanks to savvy individuals who knew enough to tell me and report it. I’ve even posted a picture of a Chick-fil-A Sandwich given to me by a friend on Twitter and had to deal with a week of harassment and bullying, resulting in having to block numerous troll accounts (probably the same person over and over) and putting my profile on “private” before it stopped. I have several more stories to tell.
Meet Svetlana. Svetlana lives in the Ukraine and was kind enough to message me that on Facebook someone using my photos, tried catfishing her for romance and the promise of cash and gifts, before ultimately trying to scam her. The perpetrator used my photos, creating a Facebook profile under the name “Desmond Lee” and messaged her. I’ve been told time and again I have a trustworthy face and this person thought they’d try to capitalize off that. Shockingly, they were able to carry conversations that went on for quite a while before Svetlana felt something was horribly-wrong and confronted them.
Curious how she found me, not knowing my real name and only by face, I ask how she found me here on the other side of the world. I also am curious what exactly transpired between her and Desmond Lee. So I ask.
I present to you A Tale of Svetlana and “Desmond“.
Desmond starts off with a bit of small talk with Svetlana and asks if they can become friends. For me, all the personal questions from someone I don’t know like marital status, age and whether I have kids would already have been a warning sign – especially when all they want to do is be friends. But in all fairness, this seems harmless enough so far. Other than the invite to download a “hangout app”.
Desmond then proceeds to win her trust by establishing a portrait of good character. So Desmond got a few facts right. Yes, I’m single and they knew I had a pet from my several pics with Billy, but instantly gave me a huge salary lift. Apparently I worked for the UN. That’s amazing! I’ve always wanted to do important humanitarian work. Thanks, Des.🙌
Things progress pretty quickly between Desmond and Svetlana and they start prying into some pretty personal aspects of Svetlana‘s life. She reveals some details about her troubled marriage and shares photos of her mother who is battling Breast Cancer, plus photos of her children with Desmond.
Desmond picks-up on Svetlana‘s vulnerabilities and preys on this, offering to help her out financially. They offer her money to help her get off her feet so she can get a divorce from her husband and build a new life. I mean I’ve been generous many times in my life, but this puts me to absolute shame. Desmond is trying to Beyoncé me into a life of Kelly Rowland here.
So this is where things start getting a little shaky. Can he pay her bills, her automobills?💸
Desmond claims to be in Canada, and then suddenly is in Singapore, committing to deliver their promise of sending Svetlana some money. They then begin confusing where Svetlana is geographically, asking if she’s in Turkey. If you were smitten enough by someone to clear their debts, wouldn’t you at least have a clue where they were from? Note also how they use Svetlana‘s family and the pandemic as talking points to build a sense of security and a deeper connection with the victim.
And then comes the “ghosting”. Desmond starts disappearing for periods, eliciting concern from Svetlana. Especially after he promises to send some money soon to help her out. “You don’t write me anymore… I hope I didn’t do something wrong.. just miss our chats”, she says.
Svetlana clues-in that something isn’t right. If Desmond is planning to wire her some money, why would they need her address?
Oh, right! Desmond just wants to send some flowers from their native Sing..alberta to Svetlana’s home so her husband, whom she is planning to leave, can see and get violently-jealous. I see you, Desmond. As an aside, the official flower of Alberta is the Prickly Rose. We’re getting total prick vibes here, alright!🥀
Ultimately, Svetlana offers to give Desmond her mom’s address to send the flowers to. Note, that to receive the flowers, her address, e-mail and contact number are asked for. She’ll be contacted when they arrive in the “_Ukraine”.
Since they’re already sending flowers, Desmond threw-in a few more goodies in the care package. Some for Svetlana and some for her sister too. No big deal. Just a necklace, some Louis Vuitton, another necklace, some Chanel, an iPhone and some cash. No big deal. Nothing to look at here. Desmond‘s a Baller and he’s scouting the Ukraine for some talent!🏀
Svetlana of course is grateful and humbled by this selfless gesture of generosity. “It really seems like a dream to meet you”, she tells Desmond. Desmond replies back to her, “I can feel your warmth love in me… I’m waiting for your address to send.”. Can you feel the love? Feels like someone’s about to get burned!🔥
Svetlana asks Desmond for help finding a job. Maybe knowing the powers that be in the UN, they can help a girl out. They reply “it’s better you get a shop for yourself and be a owner. Sale what you know it’s not going to take you much stress,okay?”. Alright, you’re onto something there, Des. But one question. You paying?
Desmond then confirms the much-awaited package of goodies are on the way and even has a tracking number to prove it. Looks legit. 🙊
One small problem, though. Who is Armstrong Joel in Kabul, Afghanistan? You said your name was Desmond. 🤔
And why are 28,000 Hryvnia ($1400 CAN) required to receive the delivery?🤔🤔
A girl’s got questions. 🙋♀️
Yes, Queen Svetlana, call-out a crook and screenshot those receipts! 👏
Uhh, actually I’m not okay with any of this Desmond Dolla $ign!
You have anything to say? Dear?
It took a while, but Svetlana caught-on, did a little searching on the web (Google Images Search, anyone?) with my pics and that led her to me and I thank her. Being visible on the internet was a burden and yet it helped Svetlana find her truth. And if some Louis V. and Chanel weren’t gained, at least wisdom was. We wish her happiness and hope whatever tough time she is going through right now with her family will lead her to a path of happiness and self-awareness. Sending all our well wishes to her mom, especially.
Take-aways from this to guard yourself from being catfished:
1. Add only people you know on Facebook
and be wary of random people you have no mutual connections with, whom message you out-of-the-blue.
2. Never be afraid to Google someone. I do it all the time. In fact, I’m probably googling you right now.
3. Ask questions too if you are being asked very personal questions right away. If you don’t get a good feeling, trust your instincts and block or report.
4. If it sounds too good to be true, it most definitely is.
5. Do not send photos of yourself or your family to someone you have no inclination to meet in real life. And if a real meet-up in person isn’t in the immediate future, it likely will not happen ever.
6. Do not divulge personal information (this encompasses anything from personal things about your life, your address, your phone number or any log-in information).
7. Guard your money. You work hard for it. Someone you’ve never met shouldn’t be asking you for money online.
In the meantime, I’ve requested Facebook take down this profile for impersonating me. You too can report this profile here.
Also, please don’t add me on Facebook as a friend, I’ll probably decline if I don’t know you. Hopefully you’ll understand why.
Be cautious my friends. Let’s nail ’em.
Not Desmond Lee