The Universe published a story on March 17 about an online relationship scandal between eight Utah women and a woman in Texas pretending to be a man. Since the story, three other women claim to have been victim to the same catfish’s hoax.
Catfishing is a term describing a person creating a false online persona to become involved romantically, financially or emotionally with others. The catfish found BYU women through Twitter accounts related to LDS quotes. The woman created the aliases Hunter Anderson and Hyrum Young, as well as background stories to create a more realistic identity for each. The catfish never asked for money, but she spent two to three years investing time, emotion and heart into relationships with the women through the phone.
National media saw the story, and many picked up on it. Dr. Phil McGraw flew to Salt Lake City to film with the women, the catfish and the man whose photos were involved in the scandal. This episode is scheduled to air April 24.
Here’s what has happened since the original article was published.
March 17 — The Universe publishes “BYU women victimized by ‘catfish’ relationship deception.”
March 18 — Nev Schulman, MTV creator of “Catfish,” calls Hilary Hayes.
March 20 — KUTV publishes “Woman, pretending to be man, catfishes at least 8 BYU coeds in Provo.”
March 20 — FOX 13 Now publishes “BYU students compare notes on significant others, discover woman carrying out ‘catfishing’ scam.”
March 21 — NY Daily News publishes “Brigham Young University women victimized by serial ‘catfish’ in Texas.”
March 24 — The Universe publishes “Three more step forward to being tricked by BYU catfish.”
March 24 — Cosmopolitan publishes “8 BYU Students Got Catfished by a Woman Pretending to Be a Mormon Man.”
March 25 — KSL publishes “8 BYU students claim they were ‘catfished’ by same woman.”
April 24 — Dr. Phil Show airs “The Co-Eds and the Catfish.”
According to the YouTube description of the Dr. Phil episode, this story is “one of the most twisted and bizarre love deceptions in Dr. Phil history: Seven co-eds face the man they say they fell in love with online but never met in person. But their one-time Prince Charming says he, too, was victimized — by a catfish who stole his identity. The story takes a shocking turn as Dr. Phil reveals the person behind the deception.”