Woman duped by online boyfriend believes Manti Te'o a victim

A Michiana woman who had a virtual relationship with her boyfriend in college says she sympathizes with Manti Te'o's situation, because she was in a similar one.

Melissa, who asked NewsCenter 16 to only identify her by first name, says she met her boyfriend in an online forum and they instantly clicked.

"We started to share things, first it started off very basic," Melissa said. "Just getting to know somebody, not thinking it was going to develop into any type of relationship."

But, as Melissa and the man started to share intimate details of their lives, the relationship escalated.

"It became pretty intimate and he even referred to me as his girlfriend," she said. "He stated he would tell friends of his that his girlfriend lived in Indiana and so I felt like OK great, I've got this guy, I've never met him. But, I know a lot about him."

As their relationship blossomed, the two decided they had to meet.

But, they agreed to send each other photos first.

Melissa quickly put hers in the mail and anxiously waited to get a picture of the man she'd been talking to for months.

"I finally got it and it turned out to be a picture of a famous model, of Rob Lowe. So, I knew something was wrong."

Melissa confronted her boyfriend via e-mail, but he insisted the photos were taken of him at a recent modeling gig.

From that point on, his lies only got more elaborate.

"All the sudden, he had gotten really, really sick with some sort of a disease, like muscular dystrophy or something and ended up in the hospital." I started getting e-mails from his address from his supposed friend."

Melissa responded to those e-mails, asking the alleged friend dozens of questions, until the responses stopped coming.

She realized her online boyfriend wasn't the person he claimed to be.

Melissa was heartbroken.

"You can develop these relationships because it becomes, I don't want to say fantasy, but it becomes the perfect relationship," she said. "You could totally have this representation, fall in love with this person, and never know the truth."

So, when news broke of the Manti Te'o girlfriend hoax, Melissa immediately believed the player was nothing more than a victim.

"I highly doubt that he participated in it," she said.

As the details of the shocking story continue to play out, Melissa says it's a reminder people should always be cautious online.

"In the day and age right now where so much is done electronically and online, it's easy to fall scam," she said. "I mean, we hear about credit card scams and bank scams and stuff. Our hearts are more valuable than credit cards or any of that stuff. So guard your heart, guard your life, be very protective."

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