Detectives warn of catfishing in northern Michigan

Detectives warn of cat fishing in northern Michigan

KALKASKA, Mich. (WPBN/WGTU) -- A scam that's been common on social media for years continues to have more people fall victim, including right here in northern Michigan.

Detectives say they've investigated 10 catfishing situations in northern Michigan just in the last year.

Meaning someone on social media created a fake persona, and started a relationship with someone in hopes of getting something.

“I could've just blocked him and said forget it all and just let it go but I just feel like it’s at least my place to let people know that it's happening and let them know how easily you can be scammed.”

Leslie Wilson started chatting with someone on Facebook claiming to be a U.S. soldier last month.

While they hadn't met, they messaged every day, and Wilson thought it was a real relationship.

Then last week, he said he needed personal information to have their relationship recognized by the military, which she gave him.

“And after that within another day or two days it was, ‘we need the $950 so we can make all of this legal’,” said Wilson.

That's when she knew it was a scam, but police say many people realize that too late.

“If you have not met them in real life, you have no idea who they are then that is not your “friend” especially in the Facebook world,” said MSP Trooper and Detective Greg Hubers.

Detective Hubers says cat fishers create good fake personas, and often use military or other honorable professions to lure people in.

And just like in Wilson's situation, he says it is textbook for the relationship to move quickly, and lastly for them to ask for money.

“I can guarantee that it's a scam,” said Hubers. “I can't picture any real life scenarios where someone would need that money that is not related to you or you haven't met in real life.”

Luckily Wilson didn't send the money, but she still feels like a victim.

“It more or less just makes you angry at this point that somebody is playing around with somebody making them think that there's this beautiful wonderland out there but it's not really out there it's all just somebody sitting behind a computer somewhere that has no feelings or heart,” said Wilson.

Wilson says she believed it at first because he was able to send her a lot of pictures, but police say cat fishers can grab those from anywhere and likely the pictures and names they're using are not the same people.

Police recommend reporting the profile to Facebook directly, which is what Wilson did.

Unfortunately, they can't go after the cat fisher since no criminal activity took place so far.

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