Schulman was ready to meet Megan and a photo assignment in Vail, Colo., soon would provide that chance. Schulman was planning a trip to Vail to shoot a dance performance and decided he'd make the 22-hour drive from there to Megan's home in Michigan to finally see her face-to-face.
But before the meeting could take place, Schulman learned something disturbing. Spoiler alert: The twists and turns of the movie "Catfish" are revealed in the remainder of this article.
He, his brother and Joost found song lyrics Megan claimed she and her mother had written together actually belonged to another artist. They also found a version of Johnny Cash's "Tennessee Stud" -- sung by a woman -- on YouTube. The rendition was nearly identical to a version Megan had sent them.
That was when "we realized everything was fake," Joost said.
But the discovery didn't keep Schulman from continuing with plans for his trip from Vail to Michigan's upper peninsula. Now, however, the journey -- to be undertaken with his brother and Joost by his side -- would be about finding answers.
"[My brother] said to me very sort of soberly, 'Don't you want to get to the bottom of this? If nothing else, don't you want to get -- find out what's real here? Who these people are?'" Schulman said.
After a 1,300 mile journey from Vail, they arrived at the house. Sure enough, they found Megan's mom, Angela, and her younger sister Abby. But there were also Angela's two handicapped stepsons -- who Schulman had heard nothing about. Megan, meanwhile, was nowhere to be seen, while Abby acted confused when Nev Schulman asked her about her paintings.
It turned out that Angela -- full name: Angela Wesselman -- was the artist. She would later divulge that after facing snide comments about her paintings online, she began posting them as 8-year-old Abby -- and found the critics to be much kinder.
Nev turned out to be the kindest of all -- and he became the inspiration for another Wesselman alter-ego: Megan.
"I really created [Megan] to make it more of an age appropriate conversation for [Schulman]," she told "20/20" in an exclusive interview.
Megan became the core of Wesselman's growing cast of characters. She created online profiles for at least 21 relatives and friends to round out Megan's social circle, she said, because "it's not normal for just one person to be on Facebook ... with just one friend."
To bring these characters to life, Angela assumed all of their identities. She posted messages on Facebook in the voice of Abby, Megan, their brother and friends. She said she had no problem navigating such a complex fantasy world.
"I have been diagnosed as schizophrenic," she said. "But ... I don't think I have multiple personalities in normal life, really. I just think I have the ability to create a lot of illusions for people."
Schulman readily admits how masterful Wesselman's deception was.
"This woman is exceptional," he said. "I'm totally fine admitting she just outsmarted me."
But whether Nev, his brother and Joost really were outsmarted by Wesselman has become a point of contention. Some have questioned whether the whole movie was a hoax.
In a piece written for Movieline, Kyle Buchanan, now with New York Magazine, claimed the filmmakers duped the audience.