Home Company There Is No Ethan:  How Spokeo Helped Reel in History’s Biggest Catfish
Home Company There Is No Ethan:  How Spokeo Helped Reel in History’s Biggest Catfish

There Is No Ethan:  How Spokeo Helped Reel in History’s Biggest Catfish

by Dan Ketchum

Anna Akbari’s new book, There Is No Ethan: How Three Women Caught America’s Biggest Catfish, proves at least two things: catfishing isn’t just the domain of MTV, and it can happen to even the most tech-savvy people you know. 

Heralded by The New York Times as a “a jaw-dropping tale of digital deception,” and named one of People’s best books of June 2024, the book is the true story of one of the most prolific catfishers of all time — and the women who used Spokeo to uncover his deception. 

The Scam 

There is No Ethan chronicles not just the biggest catfish yet busted, but also the proto-catfish.  Beginning in 2010, this true story predates the 2012 debut of MTV’s Catfish, which catapulted the term – a person who pretends to be someone else online – into the popular lexicon. 

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Ethan’s author, sociologist and former New York University media professor Dr. Anna Akbari, lived the experience, as a victim of “Ethan Schuman”, alongside two other women. After matching on dating sites, all three women forged intimate relationships with “Ethan” – exchanging thousands of messages with what seemed to be an attractive, intelligent, and disarmingly interesting man.  

Despite countless late-night text messaging exchanges, none of the women ever met “Ethan” in person — and each attempt at a video call, IRL meet-up, or in-person visit ended with an excuse.  

When Akbari connected with other women who’d also been communicating with “Ethan,” the inconsistencies became apparent, as did the depth of the lies. Not only had “Ethan” been catfishing countless others, the tactics of emotional manipulation formed a clear – and cruel – pattern. 

“Ethan” often ensnared victims into dramatic arguments, fluctuated from intimate oversharing to cold silence, and had a habit of mentioning sexual encounters before the long-distance relationship became official.  All ways of tangling victims up in an addicting cycle of panicked conflict followed by the dopamine hit of resolution.   

For this prolific catfisher, it was all a depraved power play.  

Spokeo Helps Bust the Fraudster

While part of Ethan is a gripping tale of how a masterful catfish entices victims, it becomes a thriller in detailing how Akbari and company set out to reveal who was actually behind the persona.

No spoilers (though you may already know, as the story was widely reported online in 2014), but the real person behind “Ethan” is not the suave psychopath or the online shut-in you might imagine. And while Akbari’s long-distance faux fling only lasted for a few months, some of the women (all successful professionals in their 30s) had been caught in a web of deception for years

As the women hunt for the catfish’s true identity, they employ everything from prophetic dreams to Facebook sleuthing, all to no avail. Fortunately, enter Spokeo People Search, which they use to confirm the identity of the real Ethan’s father. With the catfish’s actual last name in hand thanks to Spokeo’s social media detective tools, Dallago is able to find Ethan Sr.’s information, leveraging info like phone numbers, mailing addresses, email addresses, and social profiles. Netting that info puts the group one step closer to confronting “Ethan.”  

You Can Stay Protected, Too

While plenty of scammers catfish victims for monetary gain – forging a personal connection before asking for money – one of the most chilling parts of Akbari’s story is that “Ethan” never asked for cash.  The emotional manipulation was simply a deeply intricate lie in the name of sick psychological satisfaction, and therefore legal.  Which means there’s little motivation for people like “Ethan” to stop. 

That makes it more important than ever to have legit, identity-verifying info on your side.  With Spokeo, all you need is a name, and you’ll be able to search more than 12 billion public records for identifying information, helping you compare factual details with the online profiles of any would-be catfish.  

Verify the facts, and you’re a whole lot less likely to get reeled in, helping ensure that There Is No Ethan doesn’t become your story, too.    

As a freelance writer, small business owner, and consultant with more than a decade of experience, Dan has been fortunate enough to collaborate with leading brands including Microsoft, Fortune, Verizon, Discover, Office Depot, The Motley Fool, and more. He currently resides in Dallas, TX.

Sources

Anna Akbari, Ph. D. – About

MTV – Catfish

Observer – The Talented Mr. Schuman: Love and Mistaken Identity in the Internet Age

Hachette Book Group – There Is No Ethan: How Three Women Caught America’s Biggest Catfish

The New York Times – There Is No Ethan Is a Jaw-Dropping Tale of Digital Deception

Google Books – There Is No Ethan: How Three Women Caught America’s Biggest Catfish

People – PEOPLE’s Best Books of June 2024: Tales from Joan Didion’s Assistant and Danielle Steel’s Story of Rebirth