Manti Te'o Girlfriend Myth Shows How Easy it is to Fake Online Identity

Michael Conroy/AP Photo


By Heather VacLav


Is Manti Te'o a liar or a victim? The sports world is hung up on the hoax about his made-up girlfriend.

The shocking in depth story was unveiled by on Wednesday saying Te'o's dead girlfriend was not only alive, but not even real. 

Te'o and Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick said the player was drawn into a virtual romance with a woman who used the phony name Lennay Kekua, and was fooled into believing she died of leukemia in September, the same day as his grandmother's passing. They say his only contact with the woman was via the Internet and telephone

But there are more unanswered questions then answers, many coming from people in Montgomery, and even some of Te'o's rival college players.

"We just dont know," said Chris Jones, a senior football player from Bowling Green State University who is playing in the College Football All Star game this weekend. "We all feel for him because he is a great guy and a great football player, and this whole situation is unfortunate for him."  
Jones says he understands how Te'o could be easily fooled online.

"People find pictures of random girls and a girl could be very attractive and just put [that picture] as her profile picture, and say, this is me and make up a name and everything, " he explained sharing similar experiences on his Facebok account.
But when you break it down, it's very simple to create a fake online account. In less than five minutes, CBS-8 News Anchor and Reporter Heather VacLav was able to set up a new Twitter account with made up information and a picture she found of herself online.

Had she used someone's else's image, it would breaking the law in Alabama for invading the photographed person's privacy.

Montgomery Lawyer Michael Strickland of the Strickland & Kendall law firm, says it's common for these identity thefts to be made on social networks and online dating websites.

"Because that person's face doesn't belong to that name, it doesn't belong to that identity, and there's no telling what kind of damage you can get [from doing it]," Strickland said.

Strickland says creating fake online identities, like the person acting as Te'o's girlfriend, only hurts the real faces behind the scams, which is why the national attention should be a friendly reminder.

"Pople should just realize just because it's on the internet, just because you read it, does not mean it's true," he said. "Research your facts, and before you start clicking "forward" or "send," think twice."

Te'o denies he was in on the hoax and claims he is a victim.
Click here for an updated story from CBS News.