To Catch a 'Catfish'

It's the newest sick joke on the web: seducing a lonely soul to fall in love with a fake.
6:58 | 01/25/13

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Transcript for To Catch a 'Catfish'
Reporter: So you followed the play by play of the manti te'o hoax and you're still left guessing -- day two of the manti te'o story. r: -- EXACTLY HOW THIS Guy, star linebacker and handsome heisman finalist got hoodwinked by this guy? ♪ but nev shulman will tell you it's easier than you might think. I think there is a very common theme for everybody, which is that we're searching for love. Reporter: But maybe in all the wrong places. Oh, my god. Reporter: Nev should know. A few years ago, the new york photographer fell for a gorgeous 20-something in michigan only to discover after nine months that she was actually a middle-aged mom. The whole cyber-saga was caught on tape by his brother and a friend and turned into the indie blockbuster "catfish." The hit film became a hit tv show on mtv. Nev now playing dr. Phil to other lonely hearts, like this blonde who learns that she's been in love with a mail model, surprise s a woman. Who does that? That is just so up. It's not a new thing. Relationships are hard and weird. People have been lying to each other for ages. Cat fish. Cat fishing. Reporter: But now, thanks to the manti t'eo scam, catfishing has gone from marginal to mainstream. From a creature with fins to a verb that stings. I got cat fished. You have? Yeah. It's definitely become a hobby and, in many cases, entertainment for people. Much like playing video games or going to the movies. People are now creating personalities for themselves on the internet simply to interact with and be amused by the people with whom they reel in and manipulate. Have you guys ever watched the movie "catfish"? The documentary? Reporter:17-year-old jordan took the bait in a facebook chat room. I underwent the same thing and I just found out about it ten minutes ago. And for ever is watching let this be a lesson learned. Reporter: Lesson one, dreamboats can take you catfishing. For jordan, that was this handsome hunk who called him self "jesse." He was just, like every girl's kinda like dream guy. Did you fall in love? I believe I did. When you first saw him in the facebook profile was there a picture of him there? Him, yeah. Him, exactly. Funny now but for three plus years mr. Charming had jorden on the hook and the few times she did start to swim away -- I started dating him again, going back to him, feeling that I was comfortable with that relationship. It's interesting. You're using these phrases, "i was dating him, going out with him." What -- what you're really saying is you were dating and going out online? Right. Yeah. Never, ever saw him? No. Reporter: And like so many catfish tales -- it was a rollercoaster ride. Things were up and down. Reporter: But then she happened to flick on mtv's cat fish. And there was nev, describing an almost identical situation, and jorden suddenly had that hook, line, and sinking feeling. There was a name that stuck out to me since the beginning of my relationship with jesse. And I looked up on facebook this person's name and they go to the same school as jesse did. Yeah. They went to the same college. And then I started looking through the pictures. Reporter: By the way, google image search is said to be the singleway to catch a catfish. This girl's profile, she has a picture of a tattoo that says, "true love never fades" and I'm like, "this is the same picture that was from jesse's profile." And then I went through the friends list and people who jesse mentioned as a cousin or a relative was this girl's immediate family. Reporter: The jig was up. Jesse was a girl. Jordan's been cat fished. It's really hard to talk about this because it just happened and I am still dealing with all the raw feelings the anger, the animosity, the hurt, the pain. That tore down my trust and it was like, do I know how to trust again? Reporter: Okay, so love's a mystery. But so is "the law" in this brave new world. These people are victims. Absolutely. Reporter: Daliah saper, is the chicago attorney, who's client was catfished by this woman. She took the case all of the way to the supreme court of illinois, only to be shut down. The court just says, "unless there's some obvious intent to extort money or benefit directly from this scam, the hoax, the courts are hesitant to really step in. And start, you know, listening to these cases. So a broken heart in and of itself is not going to -- they don't wanna start -- you know, opening the flood gates to every time someone's pranked on the internet. Reporter: The truth is, these days it's hard to know what's true. But touched by jorden's story. We decided to do what old-school journalists always do. Go to the source. We tracked down jess. The alleged catfish. This is jay shadeler from "20/20" in new york. The interview and the conversations you had with jordan. Can you tell us how that got started? I believe she just hung up the phone. We called her again. No answer. So we texted her and bingo! Did she mislead jorden and make up the boyffriend? Yes. It's mind numbing to me that it could go on for three and a half years. She just kept stringing you along. Yep. I was just a little puppet. Can you ever imagine having a relationship online again? Probably not because, I mean, I had three years wasted because of this one guy. Well, who was actually a girl. Like I said, it devastated me. Reporter: That tends to happen when you don't see it coming. So long as we are not looking people in the eye, face to face there is always a lot of room

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