The internet is a scary place, incredible, but scary! This is the story of a time where I was cat fished on the internet at just 13 years old. I am so grateful that this story does not have a terrible ending, but it had so much potential to. I want to share this story to bring awareness to this issue because I know it is still happening every second. I hope in sharing this story it will make parents more aware of what their children are doing on the internet. My parents never monitored my internet activity and if they did this may not have happened. This is not my parents’ fault that this happened. The internet was new to us all and we were all so unaware of the dangers of online chat forums. So hopefully you won’t make the same mistakes as I did as a young girl! Not every cat fisher is obvious. Keep yourself and your children safe!
I am not sure msn is still a thing that people use but on Facebook alone according to social news daily 83 million Facebook accounts are fake. At the end of this post I will tell you a few ways to avoid being catfished that I wish I knew at 13..
Let’s get into the story
When I was around 11 or 12 my family got the internet connected! Woah was that exciting back then. It makes me feel old to think about it. I remember everyone my age at school was using msn. In case you haven’t heard of this it was an instant messaging app on desktop computers. This is how many people at the time would connect to each other. Mobile phones weren’t a big thing for teenagers at that time and not to mention how expensive one text would be to send! On msn you could add anyone if you knew their email address. You could have a display picture, but many people had a photo of a pet or something random from the web.
I remember being at a birthday party of my friend from school and we would all get on msn and add random people by making up email addresses and seeing if it would work. Most of the time it did. My friends would chat to these random people usually making up a name and being silly.
I remember being at another friend’s house one day and she had been talking on msn to a guy from Harden. They had never met, and they had exchanged phone numbers. We called her friend and he was with his cousin or a friend (hard to remember exactly). I don’t even remember the friend/cousins name so let’s call him Jim. Jim was talking to me and asked for my msn name. Unaware of any dangers around strangers on the internet I gave it to him. Besides I didn’t think much of it seeing as my friend was talking to his friend/cousin.
Jim and I started talking on msn, then texting and then ended up calling almost every night. We would talk for an hour at a time and he would tell me about his brother, who funnily enough, I remember that his name was Derek. He would put his mum on the phone and again I remember that her name was Helen. He claimed to have little sisters who he put on the phone sometimes as well. I remember asking Jim for a photo of him to see what he looks like. I can’t remember exactly what the photo looked like, but he was about 16 (which he had claimed to be). I didn’t think much of what we were doing and didn’t see Jim as anything more than a friend. Afterall I didn’t really know what he looked like apart from one photo and thought we would probably never meet. Until, one day Jim told me he was friends with the owner of a local video store in Tumut (where I lived at the time). He said his mum would bring him to Tumut and he would stay at the mans house he knew. As soon as he told me this I instantly felt sick in my stomach. I didn’t want to meet the stranger on the other end of the phone and didn’t know what to say. I can’t remember exactly what I said to him but me being me I would have eventually agreed.
When speaking to Jim on the phone he never spoke in a sexual way or tried to make me feel uncomfortable however I remember talking about people our age partying and “hooking up” and he said “I am too old for that, been there, done that” which at the time I thought what an odd thing to say if you are only 16.
The day came for Jim to come to Tumut and I asked a friend to come with me. I remember childishly sneaky around town that day hiding and feeling so nervous and worried. I remember where I was when I got the text saying, “I am here, when can I see you”. He told me he was parked outside a café which was right around the corner from where my friend and I were at the time. I remember this part so vividly. I looked around the corner of a store next to the café Jim was at. If this didn’t feel like a scary situation enough, he messaged me saying “I am in a white van”. Nothing against people who drive white vans but as a young girl who had heard/read about kidnappers in vans, it was a terrifying thought. I saw the white van and just like a suspenseful horror film there was a café umbrella covering the passenger side of the van so I could not see Jim. However, I did see that the woman in the driver seat was an overweight woman (just to put it all into perspective here). We kept messaging back and forward until Jim told me he was waiting outside the video store. My friend and I snuck up behind another shop on the opposite side of the street to get a glimpse of the “16-year-old” guy we were meeting up with.
I was feeling more sick than before and started to get hot and sweaty from nerves. I could see only the lower half of his body from where we were standing/hiding. It appeared to be an overweight man standing out the front so I thought he must be inside. We started walking toward the shop and past the middle age man standing on the curb. “Brooke?” … I turned back to the man I just walked past and it was Jim? I remember looking him up and down. He was wearing old worn in runners, Christmas socks (it was not Christmas), and the average middle age man clothing. He was overweight and had a beard but I did not get a good glimpse of his face because I was so scared to look at him. This was not the 16 year old guy I had been chatting to for months. I must have said hello but I can’t recall that either. I think its not only hard to remember because it was so long ago but I think a big part of it was that I was so frightened I chose to ignore and block out what was happening. I honestly haven’t thought about this event in my life until recently. My younger self had done a pretty good job of pretending this never happened.
I remember saying to Jim “lets go into the video store”. One thing that went through my head was let’s stay in public where there are cameras and other people around. I didn’t feel ok, I felt ashamed of my self for trusting this stranger and couldn’t stop thinking about what my mum would think. I even imagined at one point if I were a mother and thinking my little girl was out with her friend but instead, she was meeting a perhaps 40-year-old man… I wasn’t a rebel child and never wanted to do anything to get me into trouble. I thought I had been a friendly person by talking to this guy on the internet. It never occurred to me that I could be talking to a middle age man. As we walked through the video shop, I walked in front of him to avoid eye contact. I did not want to believe what was happening and who I was talking to. I said to Jim “How was the car ride?” and he responded with “long” and laughed. We went back outside of the shop and onto the foot path. I said I had to get home now, and he asked if we could catch up again tomorrow. I said yes to avoid any more small talk. My friend and I turned and walked away, and we didn’t talk most of the way home. We never talked about what had happened apart from my friend saying, “did you see his Santa socks?” and we both just cracked up laughing. To think back on this is so surreal that we didn’t even talk about the circumstances of what just happened. Perhaps my friend didn’t even realise he wasn’t who I thought he was. I had never showed her the picture of him and probably didn’t tell her he was meant to be 16.
When I got home I clung to my mum all afternoon. Which goes to show how young and naïve I was then. He texts me that night saying how good it was to see me and that we will see each other the next day and from that last text I don’t recall ever messaging him again. I don’t know what he did the next day, I don’t know how long he stayed in Tumut or if he really did stay with a local man or not.
I randomly thought of this story recently and when I spoke out loud about it for the first time it became a reality. It did happen. It happened to me. And it was terrifying. I feel so grateful for my decisions I made in the end that may have saved me from a world of pain. This stuff happens to so many people and not everyone would have been as lucky as I to have escaped a situation like this. I am not trying to play victim, but could you imagine if the man I met up with intended on harming me or even taking my life?
Although this man never did or said anything too unusual, I can’t imagine that this man had good intentions because he lied about his age, his appearance and wanted to spend time with a 13-year-old girl. You can only imagine what could have happened if I were alone or if I went to see this man the next day by myself. I will never know what his intentions were, and I will be forever grateful that I never found out.
Note: this event in my life did not leave any psychological impact on me at all. Like I said this person was seen to me as a friend and as soon as I realised they were a scammer/liar I was able to let them go and not feel emotionally hurt by them. Of course, this is not the case for everyone. There are young vulnerable girls on the internet that are scammed into believing guys behind a keyboard are in love with them and that ends in a world of hurt for them.
Leave a comment below if you have or know anyone that has experienced this. I would be interested to know if anyone would like to share their story.
After sharing my story I feel liable to at least share some advice on this issue to prevent other young people from being fooled on the internet in hope to help someone else.
1 .Look for them on social media
Everyone these days has either Facebook, Instagram or twitter. Look for multiple photo uploads, comments on their posts and photos. If someone has 1 profile picture, 2 likes and no posts… you know they are probably fake.
2. Ask to Face time them or Skype (is that still a thing?)
Even if they have 5 photos or have sent you a few there really isn’t anything to hide, right? So ask them to video chat.
3. Meet them in public WITH a friend
Never meet someone off the internet alone or in a private area!
4. Protect yourself
Don’t invest so much time on someone you have no idea if they are real. Actions speak louder than words. Video call or meet them before chatting for months and wasting your time and getting emotionally attached.
I hope you enjoyed or learned something from this story!
Until next time,