Stephanie O’Neil is a woman from New York who was talking to a man she met on Instagram. They built a year-long relationship online, where he scammed her out of $200k. She had fallen deeply in love with him during this relationship to the point where she was planning her wedding with the scammer. The catfish victim caught on when she was familiar with military rules and something he said just didn’t make sense to her. We interviewed her on her experiences of what it was like to fall in love with the scammer. Watch the video down below and read the article to find out what happened to Stephanie.
What was your dating life like before meeting Forrester and what made you want to date online?
I really didn’t want to meet anybody, he just kind of showed up on my Instagram.
When he originally got in contact with you, what were the conversations like, and how did things progress?
He said, “Hello,” and asked me how I was doing. He called me beautiful and we started talking about the military and his daughter. He said that he had a hard life because his parents are separated and his daughter was being bullied in boarding school. He felt bad because he put her in that school since he and his wife are divorced.
What kind of progressed from there, did you start to feel emotions toward this person?
Within a month I started to grow very close to him. I was also starting to talk to his daughter because he wanted me to since she was having a very hard time. She really didn’t like being in boarding school and he wanted me to meet her. He said for us to progress, I really want you to have a bond with her too, so I emailed her.
The first time he asked me for money was when he had the RPG attack and lost his gun in the attack. A month later at the beginning of August, he said that because he was a certain level in the military he needed to pay for his weapon. He’s terrified and thought that his commander was going to kill him because he lost his weapon.
Did you start doubting it at this point and realize that something was going on to where you might be a catfish victim?
I said you don’t have to pay for your weapon. I told him that its either one he gets in trouble depending on your rank and you’ll get extra duty or two you’re gonna get discharged. Unless you’re negligent, you don’t have to pay for your weapon. I accused him of lying to me to which he said that he would never lie to me.
I requested his badge information, which he gave me. I took that along with his name to Western Union and they said it was somebody in London. They told me why the hell would we pay for a weapon for somebody in London. After this, he changed the address to Pennsylvania.
I told him what Article 15 said and he asked me why I was bullsh***ing him? Article 15 is what gives a commanding officer power to punish individuals for minor offenses committed. “Minor offenses” do not usually include misconduct. If misconduct were tried by a general court-martial, then it could be punished by dishonorable discharge or confinement for more than one year.
What made you want to send money after having all these doubts and realizing you could be a catfish victim?
For a long time, he was really good and not bullsh***ing. Then he started bullsh***ing again.
When he first started asking for money, did you ignore some of the signs that you could be a catfish victim?
Yeah, he asked me to marry him. He already picked out a ring and videotaped it showing it to me. We were gonna go pick it up when I saw him. I also picked out a dress.
So you were already planning a wedding with this guy?
We were gonna get married to the colors pink and green. Pink was his daughter’s favorite color and one of my favorite colors, and green for the army and in honor of my father and grandfather since they were also in the army.
It sounds like he was also a part of these decisions; was he also giving you feedback and telling you what he wanted?
He wanted both of us to make the decisions together.
What made you start questioning that you could be a catfish victim? Did you know from the start but ignored it because of love, or was there one thing that set you over the top?
I questioned him on something he didn’t know and he couldn’t answer me. I went to go join one of the military wife/fianceé/girlfriend groups and found one where one of the admins knew him.
What went through your mind when they said they know him?
I was ballistic, I turned bright red and went bananas. Thankfully, I was home by myself because I started screaming.
Did you talk about this relationship while it was going on with family, friends, or coworkers?
The girl that sits next to me at work saw the phone I bought the daughter. She called me a moron since the phone came back to the office and asked why I would do something so stupid. I told her if she had a friend with a daughter in another country and you can’t get in touch with her since she has no phone, would you do the same thing?
Have you tried online dating since this incident?
My friend wants me to go onto Match.com
What message do you have for other people to understand what you’ve been through and what it’s like being a catfish victim?
I gave him all that money because I thought it was a relationship with a real person. I thought we were going to invest the money I had given him for his retirement. Now, I know better.
It was a very tough lesson it seems like.
Now, I don’t trust anybody or anything. Question everything they say. If they ask you for an iTunes card, question it.
What did the search specialist at Social Catfish find out?
She found out that the scammer was running the whole scam from Nigeria. If you have a case like Stephanie’s and would like to be featured in upcoming videos and articles on our YouTube channel and blog, email us at ShareMyStory@socialcatfish.com. We would love to have you share your story with our audience about your experiences and help us spread awareness to others.
Social Catfish also has the reverse search bar that you can use to look up any name, email address, phone number, social media username, or image to find out who it is you’ve really been talking to.