A catfish is someone who uses false information to cultivate a persona online that does not represent their true identity. It was first used in the dating world to describe a person who cultivates online dating relationships using someone else’s identity. But I’m here as proof, to tell you, that it’s not just prevalent in the world of 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 relationship. I’m going to share my experience in the hope that it will help others that have been victims or prevent others from becoming a victim of catfishing schemes. The best thing that could benefit Wisconsin’s wild wolf is to recognize that individuals like the catfisher do exist; These individuals take away from legitimate organizations or individuals that work to educate & advocate
But first I’d like to share a video on the subject of misinformation in the age of the internet that exemplifies how easy it is to fool people now a days.
The year 2020 has been quite the year, what with a worldwide pandemic, and misinformation everywhere. It’s as if truth has been heavily manipulated on a worldwide scale like never before. I want to start my blog post with a message from Queen Elizabeth the II. The Queen gives Christmas speech every year and there is always a second speech that contains an important message and sanctioned by the British. The following is the second speech.
The “deepfake” version of Queen Elizabeth II took several swipes at members of the Royal family, and the Queen even danced in a Tik Tok routine. All of it was designed to warn of the ease of misinformation that could spread in the digital age. A deepfake uses a person’s image or voice in a realistic video that usually delivers an outlandish message while purporting to be a real broadcast. Source
It’s as if truth has been heavily manipulated on a worldwide scale like never before.
Catfishing usually refers to online romance scams where someone uses a fake online profile to attract victims. Still, it can also come in the form of family, friends, or business relationships. Source
Let’s get back to my experience with a catfisher. My experience with a catfisher 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 they were being 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 prior to 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 film 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. This is where I met my catfisher, because another advocate recommended I work with them.
It only took three months to discover they were a catfishing schemer. I have to add that I never met them in person and only worked with them online. When I discovered the catfishing scheme they did everything in their power to try to destroy my reputation. Thankfully they couldn’t destroy my reputation because I had many good people around me that didn’t buy into the catfisher’s scheme. Everyone working to raise funds for the event backed me all the way knowing my intentions were honorable. There were several attorneys, retired WDNR wolf administrators, and animal shelter that all supported the fundraising event. All of which knew the catfisher was a schemer.
The catfisher sent out fake attorney notices in emails to everyone involved. But everyone realized these were not from real lawyers and merely being sent out by the catfisher as a bluff to bully and intimidate us. The catfisher was able to destroy the fundraising event by causing so much drama that everyone agreed in the end that we should cancel the event. The catfisher was relentless and stalked everyone involved in the fundraising event! Even the event venue said they’d host the event just to spite the catfisher. Many wolf advocates wondered if the catfisher was working for the other side. That’s how bad it got. The catfisher said they wanted to hold their own charity event but it became very clear they did not have the organization to accomplish this. Instead they set out to stop us at any cost, and they did.
The catfisher was able to gain support from two other individuals because they fell for the fishing scam hook line and sinker. They didn’t care about the truth and reacted without thinking or checking facts. The catfisher went to great lengths even accused me of embezzlement. I consulted an attorney who let me know it’s a case for a libel suit, because to publicly accuse without cause is libel. I was never arrested or charged with the crime of embezzlement because I wasn’t guilty of any wrongdoing here. The catfisher accused me of embezzling the ridiculous sum of one hundred dollars. Yet believe it or not the catfisher never returned any of the money they collected after the event was cancelled. They kept all the funds in the amount of around $400. The catfisher was sent a cease and desist letter from me at the advise of an attorney: Request to Cease and Desist All Defamation, Slander, and or Libel of Character and Reputation. They continued to stalk to my social media, even to this day.
I’m not a nonprofit and except for raising funds for a film project, I pay out of my own pocket to maintain this blog and other expenses.
The public has no idea they are being catfished by them to this day.
The reason I’m bringing this up now in a blog post is for the sole purpose of putting an end to the catfisher’s ruse. They have continued this catfishing scheme “story” since 2013 and continues to slander my reputation. The catfisher must keep the story alive for one reason only: because they still operate a catfishing scheme and they don’t want to be discovered. The public has no idea they are being catfished by them to this day. I’m not going to name names because the drama that would unfold for confronting them is not worth my time and energy. And as long as the catfishing scheme doesn’t involve them taking money, which to my knowledge they haven’t been lately, I will not name names. I say this because at one point, a few years ago, I caught them running a go fund me campaign for a fake student road trip to D.C. and when I called them out on this they took down the fundraising campaign.
The catfisher doesn’t have a website, no membership rosters, no news articles, basically there’s nothing but a Facebook page. You have to wonder why if the catfisher claims 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 catfisher’s organization.
I’m going to admit that I was rather naive because I should of checked credentials. Regrettably, I took the catfishers word as truth. When I did finally googled them it all made sense. They claimed to have many college students working in their organization. They had given me a name of one of the students, but it turned out to be the daughter of the catfisher. Others went to the location the catfisher claimed to hold student road team meetings. It turned out to be an apartment and there were no meetings. We later found out it was the apartment where the catfisher and his kids lived. It turned out the catfisher did not have the organization he claimed. The catfisher must of figured out that sooner or later we’d find out about the their scheme. In the end the catfisher went ballistic, creating a smoke screen in the form of drama to cover their tracks. It was truly sad. Everyone worked so hard on this charity event, then to have it all destroyed by a catfishing schemer.
I’ve definitely learned my lesson. I check credentials now. I’m very careful of who I work with now. Because the catfishing experience taught me that if you don’t know a person, that is meeting them in person, face to face, that you must be savvy. I take 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 in the hope that others will learn from my mistakes. To date I’ve never met the catfisher or those who work with them. I’ve been a volunteer for Wisconsin’s wolf recovery since 1998.
Notably here, 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 to recognize that individuals like the catfisher do exist; These individuals take away from legitimate organizations or individuals that work to educate & advocate.
In 2011 I went from tracking the wolf to advocating for them and found myself within an advocacy network that went against my values. I am tenacious by nature, and passionate about the grey wolves I got to know through tracking them. But I found myself within a system of wolf-advocacy that wasn’t for me. This story is just one example of how online advocacy can deceive good natured people.