10 Forms of Online Harassment

Manti Te'o of the San Diego Chargers speaks with members of the media in 2013. He was victim of a catfish scheme that year. Kent C. Horner/Getty Images

Notre Dame football player Manti Te'o achieved minor celebrity on the field, but his full-fledged notoriety came to be after a website revealed that his recently deceased online girlfriend did not exist. She was actually a hoax created by a male acquaintance [source: Luckerson].

Known as catfishing, these hoaxes are similar to impersonation, except that the perpetrator is not pretending to be a person who really exists (like George Clooney). He or she usually steals photos from acquaintances or strangers off the Internet for their accounts. Catfishing schemes are generally designed to incite a romantic relationship while simultaneously deceiving the target about silly little things like gender, appearance and location. Whatever happened to just going to a bar, people? Some folks use catfishing as a backdoor way pursue an unrequited love ("he'll fall so hard for me that he won't care about the deception later"). Others just want to get their kicks making strangers fall in love with fake people. Still others are simply looking for attention. The most despicable variety is undoubtedly those catfish who offer love as a means to get subject to do their bidding, often in potentially embarrassing or illegal fashions [source: McHugh].

Telltale signs that you're being catfished include the fact that you can never meet your "lover" in person — or even via webcam. There's usually some elaborate excuse as to why. In 2015, 11 women, mostly students at Brigham Young University, were catfished by the same woman pretending to be Mormon man [source: Henkel].