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Catfishing | A Real World Case File

Ok let’s be honest here, we all have guilty pleasures, right? Things that aren’t wrong they’re just not “cool”. One of my occasional guilty pleasures is watching the TV show “Catfish”. If you haven’t seen the show its basically two guys helping poor unsuspecting individuals who fell in “love” with someone over the internet. It’s always the 

same story rinsed and repeated. Individual one strikes up some connection via social media with individual two. He or she falls in love with an image stolen from somewhere else on the internet and then with a bit of investigation it turns out the person on the other side was nothing like the person they pretended to be, although secretly wanted to be. Or they were happy being jerks playing with the emotions of others.

Now I wouldn’t blame you for suggesting that the victims (and I use that term somewhat loosely in this instance) of these acts are gullible and sometimes downright foolish. But what this does point to is a much wider issue that affects those who don’t subscribe to the gullible & foolish description. The fact is normal everyday people just like you get swindled day in and day out. If they didn’t online scams wouldn’t be a $35 Billion Dollar industry and growing.

In our day-to-day professional lives at Precision Integrity Private Investigators, we see the victims of swindle and manipulation, lies & deceit walk through our doors at an alarming rate. Now unlike those on TV these are not silly people. These are people who missed the subtle cues that trained and cynical private investigators see. They come from all walks of life with varying degrees of success. And in truth it’s not always the scam you think it’s going to be when you see these people and start to hear their story.

Anyone Can be Deceived

Take for example the CEO who was manipulated by a member of his admin staff into leaving his wife. Now, don’t get me wrong this individual came to us and from the outset he acknowledged his own wrongdoing. But the point is here is someone who was sharp and savvy and was still handled by someone who created an opportunity for their own gain. The crook in this instance played a common game. She saw he was a busy individual with a lot going on, she then sought help from him for a personal matter and confided what appeared to be deep dark personal secrets, involving him in a world of drama that she continued to need his help with. She used her own (false) disclosure to create a space so he would talk about his marital issues. Armed with this information she began to exploit the situation, hyping up these differences and ingratiating herself to him at every opportunity. This eventually came to a head when the two went on a work trip and they were intimate. It was at the end of their session of intimacy that the female in question said, “so when are we telling your wife about us” and began talking about moving in with our client.

As you might imagine, the situation degraded from this point onwards for him. And as his relationship dissolved with his wife & family and he was spending more and more time with this woman, our client saw something. He started to feel ill at ease by her stories. And every time he would ask too many questions another drama came to a head, and this diverted her from answering his questions. Finally, as she pushed to get married within less than a year from having met, he knew something wasn’t right and sought a break. It was at this time he turned to us for some clarity on who this person truly was.

As we dug into her background, we found this individual had gone to some lengths to create an image that was completely fake. We asked the client for a full history and to provide all the details he could tell us about the person he thought he knew. Just a few of the things we found from our investigations included:

  1. Although being told that they were going to her family home, the house she had taken him was actually an Airbnb rental she had hired for the weekend on the North Side of Sydney.
  2. She claimed to be a close relative of a well-known Sydney identity and would name-drop and tell stories of this person and their dealings. Nothing she had stated was anything that wasn’t already available in a general google search or anything that was even verifiable. In fact, when contacted, the well-known identity was completely unaware of this female and denied any of the stories that had been provided by this con woman.
  3. She had created fictional personas which she had emails and text messages from threatening her. There was no evidence these people existed aside from her stories.
  4. This person did not own a single piece of property or even a vehicle, yet claimed she was very well off with family money. A family it turned out who were good people but lived with the con woman in a small unit.
  5. To further support the claims that she knew this Sydney identity, she created a fake email account from the company that they worked for (which we soon exposed) to email the client.
  6. She had previously used an alias to affiliate herself with the founder of a well-known multinational company, hence we believe this was at least her second attempt at this ploy.
  7. This individual had left several fake reviews for restaurants and resorts she had never been to, using the photographs of others that had attended these locations in the past. This was a clear attempt at corroborating the version she put forward that she was from “money” and well connected in the business community in Sydney and the east coast.

As you can imagine it didn’t take our Sydney private investigators long to work out what we were dealing with on this occasion. Someone who was a devious manipulator, fraud and potentially a “gold digger” as Kanye West & Jamie Fox would say.

Learn From Their Mistakes

What can we take from these experiences of catfishing? First and foremost, you don’t have to be gullible to be duped! If the CEO of a large organisation with all their savvy and resources can have the wool pulled over their eyes, then any of us in a moment of weakness could be the next victim. Second is the 5-step process of the professional manipulator / conman which is:

  • Gain your trust – perhaps by telling half-truths or complete fiction which appears true at first or second glance to draw you in so you are less likely to question what they say in the future.
  • Gain your information – By getting close to you and establishing trust or using reciprocity, they put you in a position so you say or do more than you should to or with them. They become part of your inner circle. Hence, they see more and know more about you so they can exploit you later.
  • Separate you from the herd – Using the trust already established they begin to move you away from family & friends and trusted mentors who might interfere with their plans and offer you the support and clarity that you will need to defeat them later. This furthers your reliance on them making their exploitation of you that much easier.
  • Leverage – Now they leverage the circumstance so they can enact their plan. It might be getting you to give them access to funds or a loan, it might be to have you sign over a property or shares to them. It might be to have you marry them so they can lead a parasitic life which offers them a lifestyle in which they have neither the energy nor the morals to work for themselves. No matter what route, at the time of leverage they will enact their plan so that they gain what they wish to from the relationship. You will be forced to comply or find it very difficult to say no, assuming you even realise you are being manipulated.
  • Chaos & misdirection – Balance is the enemy of the manipulator. With a clear head and no interference, the average person will likely start to question some of the things portrayed as hard facts. Thus, the manipulator keeps the victim in a state of imbalance and chaos. There is always a new issue or drama to deal with and this not only redirects the attention of the victim away from the manipulators actions but has a forced teaming effect, which thrusts the manipulator and the victim closer together to overcome the new issue that has just arisen.

The above strategy will generally be in play until the manipulator gets what they want or until they are shunned by the victim who either has nothing left or wakes up to the manipulation.

Seeking Help with Private Investigators

What steps can you take to help yourself and prevent this from happening then? Well knowing the strategy above is the first step to prevention and being able to identify it in real time is the second. But the third is where our investigators come in. At Precision Integrity Private Investigators Sydney, we do the investigation into the stories people tell to prove them true and correct or to highlight their lies and deceit. We provide evidence and clarity; providing the strategy to excise such individuals from your life and minimise their efforts to re-attach! For the case above had the client come to us much earlier our background checks and due diligence services would have saved them hundreds of thousands of dollars and prevented another broken family unit.

If you or someone you know has fallen victim to a conman or con woman, call Precision Integrity Private Investigators today, and we will assist you to right the wrong.

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