A catfish schemer uses false information to cultivate a persona online that does not represent their true identity. The term “Catfish” was first used in the dating world to describe a person who develops online dating relationships using someone else’s identity. But I’m here to tell you that it’s not just prevalent in online dating because I got “catfished” a few years back, in 2013, to be exact. Catfishing can also come in the form of a business arrangement. I’m going to share my experience so that it will help others who have been victims or prevent others from becoming a victim of catfishing schemes. The best thing that could benefit Wisconsin’s wild wolf is recognizing that individuals like the catfish schemer do exist; These individuals take away from legitimate organizations or individuals that work to educate & advocate.
“Your character is the most precious thing about you. Don’t let it degrade.” ―
My experience with a catfish was in a business arrangement. I was working (all-volunteer & grassroots) to help protect Wisconsin’s grey wolf from being hunted by the use of dogs in the wolf hunt. Wolves were removed from the endangered species list in 2011 and hunted in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Michigan. But only Wisconsin sanctioned the use of dogs through Wisconsin Act 169.
I hoped to help a lawsuit to remove the dogs by raising funds to pay for the lawyer’s fees. But let’s back up to March 2013, before meeting the catfishing schemer. I had held an event in Madison Wisconsin, to bring wolf advocates together to work on how to stop wolf trophy hunting. I screened the film “True Wolf,” and in the movie, there was a motorcycle ride for wolves event in California. I thought, why not hold an event like that to draw attention to the plight of wolves and raise money to help with attorney fees? I began working on it right away. I met the catfish schemer because another advocate recommended I work with them. The schemer’s group was Wisconsin Wolf Front United. They claimed to have student volunteers. I found out later there are no student chapters throughout the state, no records, just one person’s word: the catfish schemer’s word.
It only took three months to discover they were a catfishing scheme. I have to add that I never met them in person and only worked with them online. When I found out about the catfishing scheme they did everything to try to destroy my reputation. Thankfully they couldn’t ruin my reputation because I had many good people around me that didn’t buy into the catfish schemes. A board member from a well know wolf education nonprofit told me they wished I had consulted with them because they would have warned me. They had experience with him and avoided any contact with them. Everyone working to raise funds for the event backed me knowing my intentions were honorable. We were a team. We were professionals from the community, such as attorneys, retired WDNR wolf administrators, and an animal shelter that supported the fundraising event.
The catfish schemer sent out fake attorney notices in emails to everyone involved as a bluff to bully and intimidate us. The catfish schemer destroyed the fundraising event by causing so much drama that everyone agreed that we should cancel the event. The catfish schemer was relentless and stalked everyone involved in the fundraising event! Many wolf advocates wondered if the catfish schemer worked for the other side. That’s how bad it got. The catfish schemer said they wanted to hold their charity event but did not have the organization to accomplish this. Instead, they set out to stop us at any cost, and they did.
The catfish schemer went to great lengths and even accused me of embezzlement. I consulted an attorney who let me know it was a case for a libel suit because it is libel. I was never arrested or charged with embezzlement because I wasn’t guilty of wrongdoing here. The catfish schemer accused me of embezzling the ridiculous sum of one hundred dollars. Yet, believe it or not, the catfish schemer never returned any money they collected from the event. They kept all the funds of around $400. The catfish schemer continuously posted on their Facebook page that I embezzled $100.00 from the event. Little did they understand the law because I was never arrested, charged, or put on trial and nor found guilty of embezzlement. Ultimately, an attorney told me I had a case for defamation of character. The catfish schemer was sent a cease and desist letter from me at the advice of an attorney: A request to stop All Defamation, Slander, and/or Libel of Character and Reputation. The schemer is desperate to maintain the fraudulent story and continuously posts it on Facebook.
The catfisher and his allies were skilled at gaslighting. Gaslighting is psychological manipulation that makes the recipient question their feelings, instincts, and even their sanity.
I’m not a nonprofit, and except for raising funds for a film project, I pay out of my pocket to maintain this blog and other expenses.
I’m bringing this up in a blog post to end the catfish schemer’s ruse. The catfish schemer got caught running a GoFundME campaign for a fake student road trip to D.C. When called out, they took down the fundraising campaign. There was no student road team trip to D.C. yet, and they collected $1078.00 in a GoFundMe. No evidence was provided that the GoFundMe donations were to fund a student road trip to Washington, DC.
The catfish schemer doesn’t have a website, no membership rosters, no news articles, and there’s nothing but a Facebook page. They claim to have student memberships numbering in the thousands all over Wisconsin. I’ve called several school districts throughout the state, Madison, Milwaukee, and Appleton, and there’s no record of the Catfish Schemers organization.
I will admit that I was somewhat naive because I should have checked their credentials. Regrettably, I took the catfish schemer’s word as truth. When I did finally google them, it all made sense. They claimed to have many college students working in their organization. They had given me the name of one of the students, but it turned out to be their daughter. They used their daughter’s name as part of the scheme. Others went to the location they claimed to hold student road team meetings. It turned out to be an apartment, and there were no meetings. We later found out the apartment was where the catfish schemer and his kids lived. It turned out they did not have the organization they claimed. They must have figured out that we’d find out about their scheme sooner or later, so they went ballistic, creating a smokescreen in the form of drama to cover their tracks. It was unfortunate. Everyone worked so hard on this charity event destroyed by a catfishing scheme.
I’ve learned my lesson. I check the credentials now. I’m cautious of who I work with now. I took full responsibility because I was in charge of the fundraising event, and my naivety hurt the cause. I’m telling you my side of the story to bring awareness and hope others will learn from my mistakes. I’ve never met the catfish schemer or those who work with them. I’ve been a volunteer for Wisconsin’s wolf recovery since 1998.
Catfish schemes have become very prevalent during the COVID-19 pandemic. More than 19,470 people reported being victims of confidence fraud and romance cybercrimes worth about $475 million, according to the FBI’s 2019 Internet Crime Report; that’s up by 1,000 reports since 2018. Source
Take charge of your online presence and protect your brand. Always check credentials and be savvy because catfishing schemers are out there! After all, it’s a matter of trust. The best thing that could benefit Wisconsin’s wild wolf is recognizing that individuals like the catfish schemers exist; These individuals take away from legitimate organizations or individuals that work to educate & advocate.
This story is just one example of how online advocacy can deceive good-natured people. Be careful!