In case you've been nestled deep within your Snuggie since yesterday, and haven't heard about the Manti Te'o saga, here are the basics:
Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o had drawn much media attention from the likes of Sports Illustrated, ESPN's "College GameDay," the Chicago Tribune, and other outlets over the harrowing death of his girlfriend, 22-year-old Lennay Kekua, who had died of leukemia some time after having been involved in a serious car accident. Shortly after receiving news of her death, Te'o led his team to a 20-3 victory over Michigan State. It was a story of perseverance and heartbreak, love lost and strength found. You could barely hear over the roar of keyboards readying a screenplay for a possible movie adaption, somehow starring Zac Efron as Te'o.
But the whole story, we now know, was a hoax.
On Wednesday, sports site Deadspin broke the news that Lennay Kekua was a fictional person, presenting the timeline of Te'o's interactions with this person, the media's role in perpetuating the story, the young woman whose image was used as the online "face" of the trick, and the young man who appears to have created and maintained the hoax.
Shortly after the story was published, Notre Dame revealed, via Facebook, that Teo' and his parents had approached the school on Dec. 26 to inform them that he had been "the victim of what appears to be a hoax," and that the University had subsequently launched an investigation to determine the motive.
Then, Te'o himself released a statement, calling the incident "embarrassing to talk about" and referring to himself as "the victim of what was apparently someone's sick joke and constant lies."
Chalk it up to gullibility, hope, a trusting nature, or desperation, but these incidents may not be as uncommon as some might think. Here are four other online hoaxes that were all too successful.
1. Dave on Wheels
"Dave on Wheels" was a 24-year-old quadriplegic with cerebral palsy who used special technology to communicate online via his blog, Twitter, and Facebook. His inspirational words and optimistic outlook in the face of his physical challenges garnered Dave an online following. When he passed away from pneumonia in late 2012, even Kim Kardashian tweeted a quote from a heartwarming letter he penned before his death.
But not all the details of Rose's story added up. A blogger named Kristi-Anne grew suspicious of Rose's story and dove deeper. Through her online sleuthing, she discovered that the pictures purporting to be of Rose were of a young man named Hunter Dunn. Likewise, the woman he'd named as his sister and caretaker also turned out to be fictitious. A commenter on Kristi-Anne's blog took soon responsibility for the hoax, all while insisting that his (or her) motives had been only to inspire others and that it is "possible that more damage has been done in your reveal than in the original deception."
BetaBeat reported on the hoax, adding that Rose's story had blossomed years before he'd grown "internet famous," and concluding that the person behind the lie had "used the persona of a sick, struggling young person in order to get closer to women online."