CLEVELAND — No doubt you’ve heard the term catfish.
It’s someone who creates a fake Facebook or social media account to pursue an online relationship with someone else.
So, how could someone fall victim to a catfish?
We traveled to Tecumseh, Michigan to find out.
“Looking back on it, it seems so obvious,” said Devon Cunningham, the victim of a catfish several years ago.
Cunningham had just finished college and moved back home to Tecumseh.
“This is a pretty small town. A lot of my friends were still gone, so I didn’t have a lot of people to go hang out with. So, that’s when the idea of exploring the Internet came about,” said Cunningham.
That’s where she met David, a twenty-something athlete and musician from Cleveland.
“He talked about sports, he had a big family, he had a son of his own he was taking care of,” said Cunningham.
The two started an online relationship for several years but never met in person.
“There was always excuses for not meeting up like medial conditions, car accidents, whether it involved him or family members. There was death in the family, he was caught up late at work,” said Cunningham.
Devon was in love with David.
But as it turned out, David was really a catfish in Cleveland.
And not only was David a catfish, David was really a woman.
“When I talked to him, it didn’t ever sound like a girl, ever. And I did talk to a sister on the phone, who’s voice was clearly a female voice. I remember one time I was talking to him and he gave the phone to her and I spoke to them back to back. I remember laughing about it and said, man you guys sound alike,” said Cunningham.
So, how did Devon discover the catfish was really a woman in Cleveland?
David was talking to other women online and those women started reaching out to each other on the Internet.
The women compared pictures, stories and personal information.
That’s when one victim recognized the phone number.
“I didn’t have David’s phone number. So when one of the girls gave me the number they had for her, I called it. I didn’t realize I knew the phone number until she picked up. I knew the girl, she was one of my friends,” said the victim.
We tracked down a woman in Cleveland who not only knew the catfish, but was also a victim herself.
She did not want her name used.
“She introduced me to him. She told me she knew his family, she knew him. And she wanted me to meet this guy because she thought we would really get along, so we had an online relationship,” said the victim.
So far, the girls have several different addresses for the woman who is allegedly the catfish in Cleveland.
Cunningham has even made a website to help other women be informed.
“Talking to all these girls and learning more about this person in Cleveland, we’ve been able to make links between the things that the guy says online and the things that are real to this woman in real life,” said Cunningham.
Links to phone numbers and aliases, even different pictures.
“There’s a list of names he’s used, she’s used. There’s a list of phone numbers, there’s pictures. There’s stories that you can basically see how his story has evolved over the years,” said Cunningham.
The women say they believe the catfish in Cleveland is still out there pursuing fake online relationships.