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What happened to Casey Donovan is so common that it has its own name. Catfishing.

The internet is going mad with the story of Casey Donovan, the 25-year-old reality TV star who fell in love with a mysterious male voice on a phone line who turned out to be a woman named Olga.

Confused? So were we.

Casey was 16 when she was first contacted by a person called Campbell. She was on tour with Australian Idol as a finalist in 2004 when she got a call and they struck up a friendship that segued into romance. The only catch? Casey never met Campbell in person, not once. Every time they organised to meet, he made up an outlandish excuse and a woman called Olga turned up in his place.

Six years later, Casey figured out that her boyfriend “Campbell” was Olga all along. She found a SIM card on Olga’s bedroom floor that matched Campbell’s number.

Let’s just pause momentarily to consider how shattering that is: That’s six whole years of Casey’s life stolen by a con artist preying on the hopeful vulnerability of a teenager.

Olga’s extravagant heartlessness in sustaining a lie like this for so long is quite breathtaking. But it’s not rare. In fact, what happened to Casey is so common it has its own name – Catfishing.

A “catfish” is a person who pretends to be someone they’re not using Facebook or other social media to create false identities, particularly to pursue deceptive online romances. Or in Casey’s case, a woman who used a telephone and put on a deep voice.

The term was coined from a 2010 documentary called Catfish, in which a 26-year-old dude called Nev Schulman (pictured), falls for a hot 19-year-old girl called Megan on Facebook. Suspicious when Megan wouldn’t meet him in person, Nev tracked her down… Only to discover that he’d been sending sexy messages to a mother using her estranged daughter’s online profile to seduce men.

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When he recovered from the shock, Nev scored his own MTV series called Catfish. He and his buddy Max Joseph travel around USA playing detective and exposing other Catfish stories. And let me tell you, it is addictive. I, for one, sat transfixed for four hours straight watching back-to-back episodes.

If you’re not chilled by this particular story alone there are, as they say, many more catfish in the sea internet.

There was 18-year-old high school girl Jen, who believed she was absolutely smitten with a cute college guy called Skylar. Turns out “Skylar” was a middle-aged bald guy called Bryan, who seduces girls online as “practice”.

There was Jarrod, who got involved with a sweet young blonde girl called Abby. He supported her through a family tragedy. Turned out “Abby” was a Melissa with a self-esteem problem.

Then there was Tyler, who fell for a woman called Amanda. Turns out “Amanda” was a teenage boy called Aaron.

There are countless stories of real humans creating completely false online identities to get money, phone sex, favours, a confidence boost, or just as a cruel hobby.

Obviously, the Catfish phenomenon proves all of our fears and anxieties about the internet: How vulnerable we are, how exposed, and how gullible when it comes to the promise of love.

It’s also a pretty damning reflection on humanity, because ultimately the internet is just enabling psychopathic, ruthless, deluded or desperate people to fast-track their con jobs. And on some days, doesn’t the idea of a whole new identity sound vaguely tempting?

Have you ever been Catfished? Have you ever lied to someone about who you are online, or even been tempted?

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