True Story: I Was “Catfished” by an Online Dating Con Artist

What sane person could possibly fall in love with a total stranger on the internet ... right?

sad woman with laptop

Online dating seems to be a legitimate sign of the times. After all, we’re a technological world now; the pick-up joints of yesteryear don’t have the same appeal they once did. In our individual pursuits for a partner — whoever our ideal partners happen to be — we’re all virtually linked by one common ground: the internet.

As long as you have a computer and a connection to the web, you’re in the game, no matter where you live. There’s nothing to stop a person in a miniscule town from pursuing a relationship with another person in the heart of New York City — or anywhere for that matter. Thanks to the internet, love is a whole lot easier to locate.

While online dating is no longer taboo (more than 65% of YourTango readers agree, according to our recent survey), the concept does still prompt feelings of distrust or wariness. As more of our friends meet the loves of their lives on sites on OKCupid and, our virtual guards remain up like invisible force fields. “Will I really find love on my MacBook Pro?” The answer is, sometimes. Other times you encounter something you hadn’t really bargained for. I learned that the hard way when I met “Alex Lee.”

This is the true story of an internet con artist — and I’m not the only one she fooled.

We met one year out of my hellacious breast cancer experience; I was a new survivor fresh off of chemotherapy. I felt raw, lonely, depressed; ugly and unwanted. Alex Lee found me in an online art gallery, saw my gothic artwork and pinned me immediately for the sucker I would end up being. I would come to find later that the Alex persona had been tweaked to suit my fantasy. The plan: to use cancer as our common thread. Alex happened to be a man who suffered terribly from a fatal disease, and after a brief online courtship, he lulled me into believing I was one of the only things that mattered in his life. In fact, he came at me like gangbusters.

Read Why You Shouldn’t Ditch Your Friends for a Guy

Alex Lee described himself as a slim, handsome, young, autistic man who was not only a victim of abject poverty, but was dying of terminal leukemia as well. We talked on the phone. His voice, with its sultry Southern drawl, was naturally low and distinctly masculine.

I fell in love with Alex and spent years in an online relationship with him. It was an ideal scenario for me. I wasn’t looking for a real-life affair; I was looking for exactly what I got: an online romance with a person I believed to be as vulnerable as I was. I thought I’d found a friend, someone who had suffered as I did — someone who, in his way, could love me. And because I believed Alex was not long for this world, I wanted to help. After a while, so did all of my friends.

But Alex would never show his photo to his new friends. That should have been a glaring red flag, of course, but Alex was autistic and way too shy to share something so intimate. Instead, he would send images of vampires and dark, gothic angels. A dark, brooding creature of the night happened to be an irresistible image to certain women who should have known better, myself included.

I was content to respect Alex’s wishes to not be seen, but for just so long. My curiosity to see the face of the man I’d been so desperately in love with finally overwhelmed me. I begged him to please show me his face, promising that I would love him no matter what he looked like. Uncharacteristically, he coldly declined and shut me out of his life.

Two weeks later, I called him. I was furious. I demanded he get on the webcam and talk to me. Enough was enough. Alex consented and got on camera, and (of course) it was not a shy, brooding young man who appeared on my screen.

Find out who was on the other end of the webcam over at YourTango.

This post originally appeared on “Gone Catfishin’: How I Was Lured by an Online Dating Con Artist”

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