Since 2012, MTV’s Catfish series has been exposing people who create fake profiles on social media sites and dating apps to trick others into falling in love with them. When the poor, heartbroken prey realises that they’ve been chatting to a fraud for months on end, and the scammer refuses to meet them or engage in a video call, they have an ace up their sleeves: calling in the Catfish fishing expert. Hosts Nev Schulman and Karmie Crawford (who replaces co-host Max Joseph from S8 in 2020) will do anything to help them track down the imposter and get to the bottom of the lies.
Bogus Catfish accounts seem to be driven more by how the people who make them want to be seen, rather than who they really are. They conceal their identities at all costs. Usually, they’ll use photos of models with great genes and a gym body to attract their crush or anyone else they want to deceive. The worst part isn’t that the fraud is lying to others about who they really are. It’s that they believe that they’ll never get caught. But Catfish is all about naming and shaming scammers. Here are five of the most shocking frauds in the history of the show and why they thought they could hide behind a fake profile:
To take back the past
The first episode of Catfish in 2012 promised to be filled with shockers and it didn’t disappoint. Nursing student Sunny was madly in love with Jamison, a strikingly gorgeous man she’d met online. He was everything that she could dream of: attentive, funny and smart. But it turned out, Jamison was actually a woman called Chelsea, who had created the phony account to get revenge on some mean girls at school. But after Chelsea started talking to poor, innocent Sunny, who’d stumbled across her phony profile, she couldn’t end the relationship. What struck Nev and Max most was when Chelsea didn’t show any sign of remorse or shame for her actions.
Since then: A few days after the Catfish confrontation, Chelsea apologised and revealed that she was bullied as a kid. She used the Jamison profile to hide behind her pain and deflect from dealing with her past issues. Chelsea eventually deleted the account and she later reported that she’s an anti-bullying activist.
In the S2 (2013) finale, we met struggling artist Mike, who fell for mesmerising redhead Caroline on a dating site. While he was more than willing to meet her for a cup of coffee, especially because they lived in the same city, she’d always make up an excuse. She was either too busy or that she had a doctor’s appointment since she’d been diagnosed with colon cancer. Throughout the year-and-a-half that they’d been chatting, Mike had been nothing but supportive. So when he found out that the ginger girl he’d fallen in love with was a much older brunette woman named Heather, his heart sank. Heather didn’t even have cancer. She first started speaking to Mike using another fake profile. She conned Mike not once but twice! In the end, it was evident that Heather lured him because she wanted attention like a ruthless, sucking emotional sponge.
Since then: Caroline removed all her false accounts and she’s working on becoming a better person from the inside-out. And a year after they shot the show, Mike met a woman named Alexandra online who’d go on to be his wife. She’d seen him on the show and messaged him because of it!
Big, fat revenge
It’s true what they say about revenge: it’s a dish best served cold – or cold-hearted. Carmen begged Nev and Max to help her find Tony, a man who’d been stringing her cousin Antwane along for three years in S3 (2014). Initially, it seemed that Carmen was genuinely concerned that her cousin would get hurt if he continued to talk to this man. So, it was astounding when she called off the investigation and confessed that she was Tony! Yes, Carmen was the talk, dark and handsome Tony. Carmen wasn’t in love with Antwane. Not at all. She had only created the account to get back at Antwane for teasing her about her weight years earlier.
Since then: Even after the show had wrapped, Antwane refused to speak to Carmen. He cut her out of his life and started making an effort to meet people in the real world. Both Carmen and Antwane mention Catfish prominently in their Twitter bios.
Malice and misogyny
Zac who goes by the name of Lucas on the internet, is by far one of the most bizarre cases that the reality show has ever featured. In S5 (2016), Catfish uncovered his fake Tinder account, which he’d used to entice more than 400 women into sending him intimate snapshots. Former Playboy mate Jayme had been dating Lucas for months and she was stunned when she learnt that she wasn’t the only woman who’d been caught in his web of lies. When confronted, Zac claimed that he was conducting a “social experiment”, but it became clear during the meeting with the women that he’d harmed that he was an unrepentant sleazebag. Zac later set up a real profile on social media but the damage was already done and 400 women had to live with the feelings of violation and distrust that he’d left them with.
Since then: Zac has slithered back into the hole he crawled out of. He made MTV’s number one spot as the biggest villain the Catfish show had ever seen.
Not all scenarios on the show stem from malicious intent. Candic Palmer and her estranged husband Jamie were at a point of no return in their marriage in S5 (2016). But before she could divorce him, she started speaking to another man, Titus, online. Without her husband knowing, she contacted the Catfish crew to help her face this mystery man. And in walked Jamie to reveal that he was Titus. She’d been confiding in him about their broken marriage. Jamie misled his wife in an attempt to save what was left of their bond, and Jamie and Titus’s chats showed him the extent to which he’d been emotionally neglecting Candic.
Since then: It worked! The couple was brought closer together after filming and they were still together in 2019.
Catfish S8 starts on Wednesday, 13 May on MTV (130) at 21:30
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