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TEMPE, AZ (CBS5) -
Just how well do you know your online love?
Notre Dame football star Manti Te'o said he thought the girl he met on Facebook was the real deal.
We now know it was just a hoax, and the girlfriend who supposedly died last fall never existed.
Te'o said he's a victim of what's known as catfishin' - a term lost on many people CBS 5 News spoke with on Thursday.
"I think of going down to the pond and throwing a line in," said Bill Sandweg, owner of Copper Star Coffee in Phoenix.
But catfishin' is not just a lazy day at the lake. In the online world, it's something quite deceptive. Fake social media profiles are set up to trick others into cyber-relationships.
"Some do it for fun, some might do it because they're having some sort of psychological issues," said Ken Colburn with Data Doctors Computer Services. "You don't know why - but, it's so easy to do."
And there are plenty of gullible people ready to bite the bait.
"They just assume because they saw it on the internet, because we're having this conversation, they can just take everything at face value," Colburn said.
He said having a healthy dose of paranoia, especially when it comes to the internet, would serve people well.
"When you get that wow-is-this-really-happening-to-me feeling, that's when you need to stop and go, 'Maybe I need to spend some time investigating,'" Colburn advised.
He told CBS 5 News digging for information is free and easy to do.
Start with a simple Google search with the person's name in quotation marks.
Then do a deep search through Google's Deeper Web search engine.
Dirt Search.org, which sifts through public records, social media sites and directories, should also yield a wealth of information.
"If you see absolutely nothing from this person anywhere, it doesn't necessarily mean they're fake," Colburn said. "But that's that first indication that, hmm, they're not very active on the internet - that's odd."
Don't forget about the profile picture in question.
"If it's actually that person's picture, you should find a lot of websites that actually connect that person to that picture," Colburn said. "If the pictures come up all over the place and there's absolutely no mention of this person, that's again a red flag."
He also warned that if you've been talking to someone online for a while and they constantly have an excuse for not being able to Skype or engage in other video conferencing - that is huge cause for concern.
As for the legality of catfishin', there are no laws against creating a fake online profile.
However, if there's an exchange of money, then the person with the fake profile could be committing crimes of fraud or theft.
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