Fake identities: Manti Te'o scandal and 6 other Internet hoaxes
Believe it or not, the Manti Te'o scandal is not the first online identity hoax, nor the longest-standing. Here's a look at some of the biggest scams to surface on the Internet, from the lives and deaths of fictitious characters to the downfall of their makers.
1. Manti Te'o: Accomplice or victim?
The more that the hoax behind Manti Te’o’s and his fake girlfiend, “Lennay Kekua,” unravels, the more surreal it seems.
The Stanford University alumna fell in love with Mr. Te’o, survived a car accident, and died of leukemia months later. Also, she never existed. A Deadspin report from Jan. 16 details inconsistencies in the media about their love story, from when the two met to when exactly she died. Using public records and social media sites, Deadspin revealed that Ms. Kekua was the creation of Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, a former high school quarterback from California who became a religious musician.
Since then, Mr. Tuiasosopo has admitted to the hoax and said he fell in love with Te’o through the online persona. He even demonstrated what "Kekua" sounds like during an exclusive interview with Phil McGraw on the "Dr. Phil Show," Deadspin reports.
While both Tuiasosopo and Te’o maintain that the Notre Dame football star was not in on the hoax, questions remain about how much Te’o did know and when he found out. After Deadspin broke the story, Te'o said in a statement that he was a victim of an online hoax: he maintained an online relationship with "Kekua" – never meeting her in person – and discovered the truth about her identity in December.
When Ms. Couric asked Te'o in an interview why he lied to reporters, Te'o said "Katie, put yourself in my situation. I, my whole world, told me that she died on Sept. 12. Everybody knew that. This girl, who I committed myself to, died on Sept. 12 ... Now I get a phone call on Dec. 6, saying that she's alive and then I'm going be put on national TV two days later. And to ask me about the same question. You know, what would you do?"
If Te'o is telling the truth about the scam, he would not the first person to be fooled by a fake identity on the Web. The Internet is loaded with fake personas, some with accounts on forums and social media platforms, others with blogs chronicling imaginary family struggles. Some are the result of people feigning illness for attention. Whatever the method or cause, these scams have fooled many of people over the years.
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