2. Sarah Philips
Sarah Philips' ascent in the world of sports betting coverage was, like most things on the internet, fast. Philips began garnering attention as a frequent poster to forums on Covers.com, a gambling website. After taking notice of her rising popularity within the forums, Covers offered her a chance to write her own column on the site. Questions about the self-described "girly-girl" college student shot up almost immediately when the photos she'd handed in to run alongside her columns all seemed to be of totally different women. She insisted one image (which had appeared on the site "Hot Chicks with Douchebags" -- prime Catfish fodder if there were ever was one) was simply taken when she was younger.
Nonetheless, her articles were characterized by confidence and a readily apparent knowledge of betting and sports stats. It wasn't long before ESPN.com came calling with an offer to take her column to their site.
Meanwhile, Philips had reached out to a college student who had started a successful Facebook page called "NBA Memes," where he posted funny captions on sports-related photos. Philips asked him whether he wanted to be an editor on a new sports comedy site she was launching. She also extended the invitation to a man she'd struck up a correspondence with through the Covers forums. Long story short: Sarah Philips never hired them, but she did intimidate, threaten, and even extort them with the help of two men she had described as personal friends and associates in her burgeoning scam.
Deadspin wrote about the Philips controversy in May of 2012, resulting in Philips attempting to explain herself on Twitter. About a week later, the site published a story from a source who claims Philips was steering business to a bookie. Another story on Deadspin quotes a source who claims Philips was essentially working for a "puppetmaster" who has "threatened" people in the past.
ESPN, naturally, fired Philips in the wake of Deadspin's exposé.
3. Kaycee Nicole
The internet's ability to afford people a sense of immediate intimacy and attention coupled with relative anonymity has resulted in behavior known, however informally, as "Münchausen by Internet." The Kaycee Nicole story is one such example of this phenomenon. In 1998, a teen girl named Kelli Jo Swenson, along with her friends, created an online persona they named "Kaycee Nicole," complete with a photo. The girls' involvement seemed to stop there, with Kell Jo's mother, Debbie Swenson, subsequently taking over it.
In 1999, "Kaycee Swenson" began posting on a site called CollegeClub. In 2000, she revealed that she had been in remission from leukemia, but that her cancer had returned. Kaycee eventually began posting about her illness on a blog called "Living Colours" in August of 2000. The blog's readership grew as Kaycee shared her struggle, with well-wishers corresponding with the dying girl both online and over the telephone.
Kaycee Nicole eventually passed away on May 14, 2001 at the age of 19.
Soon after, inconsistencies in Kaycee's story began to unravel, and Debbie eventually revealed that she'd been playing the part of Kaycee online, adding that, nonetheless, "I know I helped a lot of people in a lot of different ways."
4. David Manning
You know how even the worst movies seem to have at least one positive review featured on their promotional material? You can thank David Manning for a handful of those.
In 2001, Newsweek's John Horn decided to do some digging into Manning's reviews -- which included glowing, effusive praise for such turkeys as Rob Schnieder's The Animal -- and discovered that the paper he claimed to work for, Connecticut-based Ridgefield Press, had never heard of him. In June 2001, Horn revealed that Manning was not a real reviewer but, rather, a hoax created by a Sony employee later identified as marketing executive Matthew Cramer, who had cooked up the reviews to promote films released by Sony subsidiary Columbia Pictures. The Connecticut attorney general's office eventually launched an investigation into the con, and Sony agreed to pay the state $326,000.