Farrah Abraham’s mother, Debra Danielsen turned to Match.com looking for love after her husband walked out and moved to Texas. After finding someone she found attractive on the site, she sent a message. From there, a relationship bloomed. While most online dates go off without a hitch, sometimes weird things happen. Danielsen’s experience is one of those “sometimes.” Danielsen chronicled her experience in her 2014 book, Vapor. The sordid details seem hard to believe, but Danielsen allegedly wants everyone to know it could happen to them.
How did Debra Danielsen get catfished?
Shortly after he divorce from Michael Abraham, Danielsen took to Match.com to find love. She sent a message to a prospective date who went by the name of James Richardson. The pair hit it off, but there was a serious snag. Richardson told Danielsen that he was working in Malaysia, although his home base was in Nebraska.
For several months the pair communicated via phone conversation and emails, and then Richardson offered Danielsen an in on a new business deal. By that point, the couple was planning a life together. Over the course of several months, Danielsen wired Richardson over $250,000 for a stake in a fictitious oil business.
The day that Danielsen was scheduled to meet Richardson for the very first time, she received a strange phone call. The caller informed Danielsen that Richardson had died in a car accident on his way to the airport. Danielsen never heard from her online boyfriend ever again, although no car accident ever occurred. The business deal was fake, too. Danielsen forked over a quarter of a million dollars to a scammer.
Did Debra Danielsen have any recourse?
Danielsen alleges she knew the entire situation was a scam the second she received the strange phone call, but apparently she had some suspicions before that moment, too. In her memoir, Danielsen notes that each time she sent Richardson money, she got a sinking feeling, but he assuaged her fears with phone sex and lengthy emails. Danielsen rationalized the entire situation by remembering she initiated contact with Richardson, not the other way around.
Danielsen allegedly went to the police, but there was little recourse since Richardson was not on American soil. According to HG, catfishing in and of itself isn’t illegal, but the request for goods or services through lies is. In fact, catfishers are engaging in fraud when they impersonate an individual to gain a benefit. While there is legislation on the topic, it becomes difficult and complicated when the scammer resides outside of the United States.
Debra Danielsen isn’t the only celebrity who has been a victim of catfishing
While Danielsen’s tale has been immortalized in a book, she is far from the first celebrity who has fallen prey to a catfish. Meri Brown of Sister Wives was the victim of an elaborate catfishing scheme that nearly ended her marriage. Brown, who is part of a polygamist family, began communicating with an individual who claimed their name was Sam Cooper. Cooper turned out to be a woman named Jackie Overton.
Overton took to threatening Brown after the catfishing became known. Even four years later, Brown’s relationship with her husband, Kody Brown, has not entirely healed.
Dina Lohan was also believed to be the victim of a catfish when she appeared on Celebrity Big Brother. Dina told her castmates that she was in a years-long online relationship with a man she met on Twitter. While he turned out to be exactly who he claimed, it appears that he never had any intention of meeting Lohan. The pair have since ended their relationship.