The last thing he said before he unmatched me was "You sound like a stalker."
He wasn't wrong. I did pull some pretty creepy moves to figure out that the guy that I was chatting with on Tinder wasn't being honest. But before I meet up with a stranger I met on the Internet, I think it's fair to do a bit of research.
I came across Brian's photo late one night. He was gorgeous -- four of his six photos were clearly modeling shots and the two other photos were just regular selfies of the same guy. I assumed the profile was fake because this guy was just too good looking, but I decided to try the odds and swipe right.
A second later, I got a pop-up saying that we had matched, and a minute after that, I got a message from Brian. He said, "your smile is intoxicating Jaime," which I thought might be one of those lines generated automatically by spam profiles. I decided to respond to see what would happen. We started chatting, and because he was responding normally, I realized that the person at the other end of the phone was definitely human. Still wary about the photos, I sent him a message asking if his profile was real.
He said, "Of course it is!"
I don't know what I was expecting. People who use semi-anonymous messaging to catfish others don't usually admit in the first few seconds of a conversation that their photos are not of them. But I thought it was worth a try.
Brian and I chatted for about an hour last night. He told me that he was pursuing an MBA at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, but other than that, he didn't give me many details. I'll admit, he was charming, but I had some serious doubts about those photos. They were just too good.
As the conversation winded down, he asked me to get a drink with him over the weekend. This is where sites like Tinder can get a bit dicey. I am on the site to meet people, but the potentially dangerous flipside is that, without using last names or phone numbers, you only know the person you are potentially meeting by the photos that they choose to display. To lessen the risk, I usually try to see if the person I am talking to has an online presence, and if I can verify information about them before agreeing to meet up. I also request to meet in a crowded place like a coffee shop or bar, and tell my friends where I am going. Sure, trying to find someone online based on their name and a few details can be somewhat creepy. But I'm not going to put myself in a situation with a complete stranger unless I know a bit more about them.
And I used to be a criminal investigator. So I'm very good at this.
The next morning, Brian messaged me again. I wanted to figure out once and for all if he was who he said he was, so I decided to check the University of Wisconsin MBA class profiles. There are a few Brians at UW Madison, but unfortunately, none of their photos matched the ones in Brian's profile.
Realizing that I was probably being lied to, I decided to run a reverse Google image search on Brian's photos. Turns out my Tinder match's photos are all over the Internet. He is apparently a stock model, poses for a small photography site, and has an IMDb profile under the name Brandon Larcom, "an international and national champion ice skater."
At this point, I had two options -- I could just ignore or unmatch Brian and move on, or I could call him out. I picked the more amusing of the two options.
I messaged Brain to confirm his story, asking him about his concentration and graduation year from UW-Madison. Then I dropped the bomb. I told him that I checked the class profile, and either his name isn't Brian or he is not in the MBA program at UW-Madison.
Surprisingly, he wrote back, "You're really freaking me out."
I wasn't done. I told him that I also found his photos. The last thing I managed to type before he unmatched me was, "So, are you Brandon Larcom, champion ice skater?"
By the blank screen that followed, I'm guessing he was not.
When you sign up for a site like Tinder, you are assuming a certain level of risk. You risk talking to some jerks, some spam, and some catfish. You also might meet a few interesting people, and for that reason I'm going to keep using the app. Heads up to the men of Tinder though, if you want to meet up with me, I'm going to look you up too. It's just good sense.
And Nev Schulman -- if you're looking for a new Catfish cohost, hit me up.