A 28-year-old guy fell deeply in love with the photographs of an Instagram fitness blogger but was being unwittingly tricked by a catfish using her photos.
In a world where bloggers detail all aspects of their lives through public photographs on social media, among all the followers and fans are devious identity thieves.
This catfish, who went by the name of Carrol Brown, used photos of Courtney Wilsnagh, including selfies, gym videos and birthday photos to lure a vulnerable man into working two jobs in order to buy her a diamond ring so that he could marry her.
The man fell deeply in love with Carrol, but stumbled upon Courtney’s Facebook page which revealed the secret that Carrol had been hiding.
He wishes to remain anonymous, but said that he is ‘finding it hard to breathe’ and feels like he is ‘dying’ after finding out he had been tricked.
The man told UNILAD of his plans to marry Carrol, having turned down two marriage proposals from other women and was working two jobs in order to afford a diamond ring.
‘Brown’ then sent this photo to the catfishing victim claiming it was her birthday and asking for a present.
The way it was carried out was very calculated – whoever is hiding behind the alias of Carrol put context to the photos and created scenarios to make it seem real.
Speaking about how she felt about her photos being used, Courtney told UNILAD:
It makes me feel sad and upset that someone would use me in that way to hurt and take advantage of kind innocent people, and I feel kind of violated when my identity is being used without my knowledge.
When he first messaged me I didn’t believe him until I found her account because it’s hard to believe this could actually happen to you.
The man, who was from India, was added by ‘Brown’ on Facebook and they began speaking regularly before he claims he fell deeply in love with her.
Carrol would make constant excuses not to speak on the phone, and even refused to go on video call when the man’s mum and sister were there to see her, claiming she was ‘shy’.
In a bid to win back the man’s affections after upsetting him, ‘Carrol’ sent him some voice messages on Whatsapp. When you hear them, it becomes instantly clear that voice is computer generated – a key warning sign that of a catfish.
Here are the eerie voice recordings Carrol sent to the man…
Speaking to UNILAD, the man said:
It’s really hurt me, I loved her a lot. I got two marriage proposals that I turned down for her.
It’s difficult to breathe daily. I think what happened to me? What have I done to deserve this? Did I do anything wrong?
I was deeply in love with her and now I feel like I’m dying.
I don’t have answers for my family, I don’t have answers for my friends, I don’t have answers for this world, I’m feeling very bad.
This is not the first time Courtney’s identity has been stolen and it is a crime that is incredibly difficult to police.
When asked what effect the experience has had on her, Courtney said:
It does make me feel like I no longer want to post photos on social media but I know that there are so many other girls on social media that they could impersonate.
I don’t think anything could be done about stopping people’s photos from being used besides watermarking them or making accounts private, but I doubt everyone would start doing that.
I think people need to be more aware of how common catfishing is and not fall for someone they have never Skyped or met yet. If anybody asks you to send them gifts or money that is a definite red flag.
If he had not found Courtney’s profile, the victim confessed that he probably would have traveled to America to see her and sent her a ring along with anything else she wanted because he was ‘completely in love’.
One of the videos ‘Carrol’ stole and sent to the man, saying she was ‘going to the gym’:
Because he had an infatuation tied to photos of Courtney, when he spoke to her to make her aware she was being used to catfish, he struggled to separate the photos he knew and the fact that Courtney was a separate individual.
After the man repeatedly spoke to Courtney as if she was Carrol, tying the two together, Courtney said:
l feel so sorry for him because he seems so sweet and kind-natured. It’s hard to accept how devastated and heart broken he is. But at the same time I can’t be ‘Carroll Brown’ or take her place because we are completely different people and he needs to accept that.
If I could speak to ‘Carrol Brown’ I would tell her that first of all stealing another person’s identity is not only illegal, it is also morally wrong. I would want to know what type of sick person could prey on innocent kind men for money and gifts and not care about how that could emotionally and financially effect them.
I would never lead men on for financial gain so I don’t expect someone pretending to be me should ever do it.
Courtney reported Carrol’s imitation page to Facebook and they removed it, but it is incredibly easy for them to set up another under a different name.
With many laws in the UK struggling to keep up with the ever-changing digital age, catfishing is not a punishable offence, but many are calling for it to be made one.
If you think you are being catfished and have lost money or anything else, the general consensus is that you should report it to the social media website, gather evidence and report it to the police, and then speak to a lawyer.
The victim sent ‘Carrol’ a photo of Courtney’s profile and questioned her about it, but then she blocked him on all sites:
It is so easy to deceive online and remain anonymous so it is important to remain vigilant when dating online.
If you have never spoken to a love interest away from a broadband connection and a computer screen while they profess their love for you, it could be too good to be true.