By NATALA HAWK
It’s 9pm on a Friday night. I’m on the couch at home, eating a caramel slice and watching a TV show in which an American girl has flown across the country to meet up with her long-distance boyfriend.
The girl’s name is Jen. She is an 18-year-old high school student. Her boyfriend’s name is Skylar Hazen, and he is a 22-year-old university student.
The pair met on an gaming site and have been chatting online ever since. Their conversations look like that of any other pair of lovestruck teenagers. They call each other “babe”.
They’ve never met each other in person, but Jen has two pictures of Skylar, so she knows what he looks like. She wants to meet up with him, but he says he’s too busy with studying to find the time to see her. Eventually – after much persuasion – he agrees to let Jen fly over and visit.
So Jen gets on a plane. She does her hair and her make-up and wears her best outfit. She turns up on Skylar’s doorstep and calls him to let him know she’s outside.
There is no fairytale ending to this story.
Because Skylar Hazen doesn’t come downstairs to meet her.
Skyler is actually a guy named Bryan, who is short and balding, with a shaved head. Bryan couldn’t look more different from the Skylar in the photos – a man who is tall, tanned, with a full head of hair, sunglasses, a huge smile.
Bryan admits that he found the real Skylar Hazen online, and stole his identity to use as a cover-up to seduce many women at once, online.
The real Skylar Hazen has absolutely no idea that Jen even exists.