A Sydney mum and model has shared how she feels violated after discovering her image was being used by a cat-fisher in the United States.
Kate Heussler, a model and model coach and former beauty Queen who won the Mrs. Australia pageant, received contact from a man in the United States who said he’d been speaking to an “obvious scammer” who had been sending him photos.
However, the man also later admitted he’d sent money to the scammer, but stopped replying once they got Kate’s daughter involved.
Kate told At Home Remedy she initially thought the man’s report of a scam was a scam itself, as she receives a lot of strange mail through her website.
However, the fact the man had used a real first name and surname and had an email contact back led her to believe the message was a lot more legitimate than others.
Given Kate’s entire qualifications, career and business is about branding, Kate took it very seriously. Although she wasn’t sure where it would go, she decided to make time to check it out. Her initial question for him was "What do you mean?", because she didn’t know if this was just someone laughing at her image, or graffitiing it.
His response made Kate realise it was a big deal, and that’s when she discovered this guy thought he was in a relationship with her before he was scammed for cash.
Kate said the man started sending her screenshots of messages the unknown cat-fisher had sent him, and shockingly, the images included shots of her that weren’t currently on her social media.
Kate initially thought the person must know her, because they couldn’t know details about her family and divorce situation without knowing her personally.
What tipped Kate over the edge to report the situation to the police was some of the screenshots he sent were images that weren’t available online.
Kate didn't think there had been a breach of security because she has encrypted passwords and two-step authentication, so it seemed to Kate like this person has been stalking her for a while as the images were from stories she had put up nearly five years ago. That was when she realised this wasn’t even remotely funny, it was a very big deal, and she had to go to the police.
Kate said she’s concerned for her safety because she’d had issues with a stalker in the past, and needed court orders to protect her.
She initially suspected her stalker was also to blame for the catfish, but quickly realised it was a US or Canada-based woman once the man sent her voice-recordings of his conversations with her.
Kate now believes someone who has discovered her profile had deemed it enticing enough to use in a scam, and that as her profile isn't 'A-list', it’s small enough to hijack. She now is wondering about how many other men this person might have scammed, and how many other people may genuinely believe they are in a relationship with and financially supporting her.
Concerningly, when Kate tried to report the scam to the police, they told her there was nothing they could do because the scammer was based in the US, so she encouraged the man from the initial email to report the scam on his end.
She said catfishing was particularly nasty because there were always two victims - the profiled and the target.
Kate says she feels violated given this person has created an entire persona which includes her daughter, family, and divorce. To think this individual had used her image for their own financial gain is "beyond reproach".
Kate said her heart goes out to the victim and has great compassion for him, and is thankful he was aware enough to not allow himself to keep getting scammed, and the was brave enough as most men would be embarrassed and ashamed they were scammed.
Despite the catfish, Kate doesn’t regret her path in life as it realistically could happen to anyone and let's face it, you can’t hide yourself in today's day and age.
However she warns that this scam, like any other, could happen to you.