Online hoaxes common in the digital age

Published On: Jan 17 2013 04:35:00 PM HST

Some are asking how could Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o be fooled by an online hoax?  But, online communication experts say it's quite common.

"Yes, I haven't seen her, but I'm talking to her.  She must be real," said Alan.  "I'm chatting with her, I'm emailing back and forth.  She's gotta be real."

Alan's story is similar to many others who think they found love online.

"There's no reason someone would lie to me.  I'm sending my real pictures.  She's sending me pictures," said Alan.

His misplaced love story began seven years ago in a chat room.  While he says a relationship blossomed through emails, photos and phone calls, work and other excuses kept them from meeting in person.

It last for eight months until he finally met her on Kauai.

"And then finally a knock on the door and I'm saying I'm finally getting to meet this young lady," said Alan.  "Open the door.  Totally different person."

Alan continued, "At that moment, I didn't want to throw it in her face.  And I was, 'Oh, you lied to me,' but I was embarrassed."

"It's not uncommon for people to basically  buy into a relationship with somebody online," said University of Hawaii Communications professor Thomas Kelleher.

Kelleher says, these days, online communication is part of a relationship.

"Most relationships are at least partly online, particularly among college students," said Kelleher.

Kelleher says people like Te'o make easy prey.

"In a sense, he's more vulnerable because he's such a high profile athlete and, you know, the very things that we love him for may be what made him kind of a target," said Kelleher.

Kelleher says don't fall for someone until you've met them face to face.  Not so easy, as Alan will tell you.

"When you're in that relationship, you're in love or whatever," said Alan.  "You think it's real and so you don't want it not to be real."

Kelleher tells us what surprises him most is how long it took for the story to get out about Te'o's fictitious girlfriend, since it's so easy to research thing online such as names of college graduates and obituaries.


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