If we’re lucky fake people or organizations label themselves, like the account above. Even with clear warning, it’s easy on mobile to glance at the logo, not really look at the user name and end up with some strange information we think are facts.

Owning a social media account for a name that can’t be trademarked is also easy, it’s a matter of claiming it first. Look for the NFL Commissioner on Facebook and you get someone out of Landstown. He isn’t trying to catfish you but he certainly isn’t Roger Goodall. This person owning a NFL Commissioner account is perfectly legal.

Both of the accounts above go to some length to alert you to the fact that they are not the “real” thing. But there are a lot of people in the social media world who aren’t who go to some length to see that you don’t ever know who they really are. Examples in athletics abound:

Probably the most famous is the case of Manti Te’o of Notre Dame and the girl who didn’t exist. This catfished sequence put an extensive emotional strain on the player, brought his honesty into question,and put the 2013 draft spotlight on his social media romance rather than his football prowess.

Last year when Bronco Jeff Heuerman was at Ohio State he got into some serious back and forth venting over a parking ticket. The only problem was he was conversing with a fake Twitter account (@OSUCampusParc); besides being a waste of time it wasn’t great personal PR.

In 2014 a North Carolina football player publicly committed to the Florida Gators on an offer he thought had come from then Florida assistant coach Brad Lawing. The player had talked to the real Florida coaches earlier in the year, but the offer came from a catfish social media account. The Florida coaches had not made an offer.

When the Chief’s Ramik Wilson played at the University of Georgia he didn’t want a Twitter account.He ended up with one anyway to combat the numerous fake accounts that were using his name. (@RamikWilson is one of the fake accounts. @WilsonRamik is the real one.)

Beyond the normal safety issues, virtual coaches, fake fans, and phony recruiters in social media negatively impact players who are attempting to be noticed in universe of 1,000,000+ high school football players. There are some basic steps to take to assure yourself that you are actually “talking” to a real person who is a real coach and that they are talking to the real you.

1. If possible your social media account should have your first name and last name as part of the user name or your last name and jersey number.  (You can easily change your Twitter or Instagram User Name. Changing your name on Facebook takes documentation and a lot of patience; add information in your short bio that will help verify that you are actually you.)
2. Monthly run a search for your name on social media channels. First use your full name and look through the options that come up. Then use your last name only and run a search (very often catfish accounts will reverse the first and last names.)
3. If you are not using a particular social media account, unpublish it or run an archive and then delete it.  Unattended accounts are prime bait for hackers and catfish.
4. Do not assume that an account which has a coach’s picture and looks official is official.
5. Some college coach’s accounts are verified (A blue check next to the user name shows you they are verified.) An account that is verified has been checked by the social media platform and they are asserting that it belongs to the person and the bio is correct.
For example, the University of Texas Coach Strong’s Twitter account is verified (@Strong_TexasFB); Syracuse’s Coach Shafer’s Twitter account isn’t verified, it just states that it is the official account. (@Coach_Shafer).  Check the account feed and the website associated with any unverified account to get a better sense of its authenticity.  If you are still unsure, send a short email to the athletic department of the school and ask them to verify that you have the correct account; they will not consider it an imposition. Or, go to the verified team Facebook page and send a direct message with your questions.
6. Some colleges and universities have social media directories on their Athletic websites; check.

Despite the fact that it is cumbersome, switch to email after the initial contacts. When you talk to a coach who has expressed interest in you and whose program is interesting to you, use FaceTime or Skype if you can.

It’s hard to catfish real time video.

Pat Hade
Social Media 4 High School #Athletes
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