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Utahn’s photo being used to catfish people; man says he’s not responsible for scams

<i></i><br/>Justin Yoder's photo is being used to catfish people; Yoder says he’s not responsible for the scams.
Lawrence, Nakia

Justin Yoder's photo is being used to catfish people; Yoder says he’s not responsible for the scams.

By MATT GEPHARDT

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    WEST HAVEN, Utah (KSL) — For years, KSL has warned about scammers stealing photos from social media to dupe people in romance and other scams by pretending to be someone else. For victims, catfishing can be devastating. But what about the people the scammers pretend to be?

“It’s just… not me,” said Justin Yoder, whose photos were stolen from his social media a couple years back.

Yoder had seen my recent story about an analysis from the website Social Catfish determining the “100 Most Used Catfish Photos of 2023.” Turns out, Yoder, a Utahn, was #42 on their list.

“It’s not what I wanted to be known for,” he said about his photos being used to catfish people.

Scammers are creating fake profiles, using Yoder’s photos, to seek out people looking for love. The back-and-forth communication between the bad guy and their target can go on for months. And when their target professes love, the scammer persuades them to send money.

In some cases, the bad guys take the scheme to another level, continually fleecing their victims over an extended period of time. It’s called “pig-butchering” — an allusion to the practice of fattening a pig before the slaughter.

“When you’re in love, you do crazy things,” said Yoder, who usually finds out his photos have been used after someone has been ripped off.

The victim does a little digging and tracks him down. He is a real estate agent. His name, face and phone number are out there.

“I get nasty messages,” he said. “My social media gets messages. My friends get messages that I’m a horrible person.”

Yoder said every day he gets calls, emails, and social media messages from angry women who believe he is the one who took their money. It has cost him time. It has cost him business. It has also, at times, gotten scary.

“They told me that my son would burn in hell for what I’ve done — multiple times.”

One woman from California went so far as to make the drive to Utah to show up at his office to confront him. Another time, when Justin persuaded a woman to stop sending money to a crook, he actually got a call from the scammer himself.

“Do your business,” Yoder was told. “I’m doing my own business. Why can’t you focus on your own business?”

Yoder said he is hopeful that sharing his story will help others avoid getting conned, and at the same time, unsully his reputation.

“It’s just super frustrating because I just want to live my life and not have all this outside noise.”

According to data from the cybersecurity company Aura, half of Americans who have used a dating app in the last five years have experienced catfishing. That has more than doubled from 24% from five years ago. And 12% have experienced “pig butchering,” which is also more than double the rate from five years ago.

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