I'm a catfish expert – the craziest cases I've ever seen, including a mom who used her daughter's sexy photos | The SunOctober 25, 2022
TEN years into filming his MTV show Catfish, Nev Schulman has seen a few things.
Now the reality TV star is looking back on the show's wildest moments and revealing his best tips for avoiding getting caught in your own romance scam.
November will mark the tenth anniversary of Catfish's premiere on MTV.
In that time, "catfish" has become a household word — and Nev, 38, has uncovered hundreds of fakers.
But some stories stick out as crazier, sadder, and more shocking than others.
Speaking to The U.S. Sun, Nev — who has partnered with Zelle to warn people about scams — shared his top three crazy catfishes.
UNMASKING "KATY PERRY"
In a 2016 season five episode, Catfish spotlighted Spencer and his hot 'n cold lover.
"By all accounts, he is an accomplished, successful member of society. He’s smart, he went to college, he played advanced-level golf, lives in a cool city. He’s got a great life," said Nev.
"And yet somehow, he was on some online app game and met some girl whose name happened to be Katy, and they got to talking and after telling her what he did and inquiring what she did, she said, 'Oh, I'm a singer,' and he eventually he found she was Katy Perry."
Or at least, she said she was Katy Perry.
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"Katy" told him she liked to be able to talk to "regular people" while playing online games and insisted that her management set her up in a "fake marriage" with Orlando Bloom.
For six years, the two were in a virtual relationship, and Spencer was "so convinced" she was the real Katy Perry.
"When we figured out it was actually some girl in England and we were gonna take him there to meet her, he assumed, 'MTV is gonna take me on this international trip to meet Katy Perry, this is how it all ends,'" said Nev.
Even when he was confronted with Harriet — the woman posing as Katy — he "still had a hard time believing it."
Spencer grilled her, bringing up conversations they'd had years before — and when she didn't remember all the details, he took that as proof that she wasn't the "Katy" he was talking to.
Of all the catfishes of the past ten years, Nev said this is up there as the "most unbelievable, how-could-you-believe-this" story.
MUM'S THE WORD
Paul and Caitea stand out as "perhaps the most shocking or wild or crazy" story.
When he was in high school, Paul had an online romance with his first girlfriend, Caitea, whom he met through an online gaming community.
They eventually grew up and lost touch, and in 2021 he was engaged with children – but still looked Caitea up from time to time.
It was his fiacée — concerned about this long-lost love — that reached out to Catfish for help so Paul could "close that chapter."
"So we helped him figure out who the girl was, and the girl was real, except he wasn’t talking to her — he had been talking to her mom," said Nev.
Caitea's mother, Martha, has stolen photographs off of her phone to send to Paul.
"At the time, her mom had had a thing for younger guys," said Nev, who called the episode the "strangest and most interesting that I can remember."
In this case, it wasn't just Paul who felt duped and disappointed — Caitea also had to deal with the "awkward embarrassment" of what her mom had done.
"It was something that had been a big issue in their relationship for a long time," said Nev.
Earlier this year, Catfish took a look at Adam, who had "really hit it off" with Mercy, a woman he met online during the pandemic.
"All the red flags were there, but his self-esteem was really low and this girl was promising him the world," said Nev.
"He’d even gone as far as to buy an engagement ring in the hopes that when they finally met he’d propose."
But "it legit ended up being a Nigerian scammer."
Nev is still surprised that the scammer agreed to come on the show, where he admitted that he had lost his job during the pandemic and learned how easy it was to trick men into sending money online.
"It was just to pay some bills," said Nev. "But it’s a great example of how you don't even need the best scammer or a sophisticated scammer."
Surprisingly, Adam was "so sweet and understanding" — and ended up sending his scammer the engagement ring he'd bought so he could pop the question to his own girlfriend in Nigeria.
"So the guy who got catfished sent him the ring to propose to his girlfriend, which is very sweet," said Nev.
NEV'S TOP TIPS
So how do you avoid getting catfished or otherwise scammed — especially when it could mean losing money?
"People will come up with excuses and believe what they want to believe. Which is why some of the best tips are not specific tools as much as they are conceptual," said Nev, who has also posted TikTok videos highlighting different kinds of scams.
"If you’re in a new relationship with someone on the internet and it feels new and exciting, don’t keep it a secret. Tell your friends about it.
"Because while you may not be skeptical, they will or might be, and they might do some research, they may ask the questions that you haven’t thought to ask or that you’ve tried not to ask."
Next, look out for a sense of urgency, which is a major red flag.
"A lot of times you get into these conversations that get flirty, everything is going awesome, and it’s moving quickly, and then — boom! — something comes up, an immediate situation that needs your attention and oftentimes your money," Nev explained.
This doesn't just apply to messages from a romantic partner, but also from banks or utility companies.
"Any time you get a message that says you need to do something now, you need to pay now, don’t get bullied into moving fast, especially when it comes to sending money."
If it's a romantic relationship, it's also important to take an honest look at how much you really know about the other person.
"Most of the time, the catfish or scammer tends to be a great listener. So the idea is they’ll ask lots of questions and very rarely reveal anything about themselves," said Nev.
The scammed party might feel like their partner is out of their league and they don't want to mess things up and "lose this incredible connection I have with someone who cares about me and listens and wants to check in with me every day" — so they'll make excuses for things that don't sit right.
But in the age of Google, there's no good reason not to check someone out, especially if you haven't met them in person.
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"Do any of the search techniques — an image search, a phone search. If the person has a job you can probably find them on LinkedIn," said Nev.
"If you want to find someone and they are who they say they are, it shouldn’t be that hard."
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