Te’o-type hoax targeted Washington Redskins players

Editor’s note: Katie Couric spoke with WTOP this morning about interviewing Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o. Read and listen to what she had to say here.

Andrew Mollenbeck, wtop.com

WASHINGTON – A flirty fake on social media targeted several Redskins players last season, but the steamy images and messages never led to the drama that has surrounded Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o.

A story posted on NFL.com reports at least four Redskins were caught up in the hoax.

According to the story, a woman — a diehard Redskins fan — snagged photos of porn star C.J. Miles and passed them off as her own.

She apparently sent photos to players’ cellphones and communicated via Twitter.

Eventually the team realized the woman, using the pseudonym Sidney Ackerman, wasn’t real.

Phillip Daniels, the team’s director of player development, then warned players to avoid her on social media, the story says.

The players never met the woman in person, even though the conversations were said to have continued for months.

The woman’s Twitter and Facebook accounts were removed, NFL.com says.

Teachable moment

Te’o and the Redskins’ brush with faux cyber romances offers a lesson for anyone looking for love on the net, says Julie Spira, an online dating expert and founder of the website CyberDatingExpert.com.

“I think the need to love and be in love is so strong that the fantasy love and the emotions take over,” she says. “Please, don’t change your Facebook status to ‘In a Relationship’ until you’ve met someone in person, and you’re both on the same digital page,” she says.

Spira lists several red flags. An immediate warning sign is if a photo looks too perfect and touched up, and it’s not supported by additional photos. The person may be using a fake identity.

Another red flag: the communication very quickly jumps to “I love you.”

She points out there are also a number of ways to use photo recognition to identify a person. Google provides a reverse image search that scans the internet for the same photo.

“Hop on a Skype call or a video chat,” Spira says. “It’s free. It’s ridiculous not to use it because technology is so easy.”

Even those steps aren’t a guarantee you won’t be duped, but it gives would-be Romeos an opportunity to check that the voice matches the one from phone conversations, she says.

Follow @mollenbeckWTOP and WTOP on Twitter.

(Copyright 2013 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

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