As great and ubiquitous as online dating now is, it can still open you up to the possibility of being catfished, or being lured by someone who’s faking an online persona using someone else’s photos. It happened to Emma Perrier, who spent a year thinking she was talking to a man named Ronaldo — but realized something was going on when he repeatedly refused to meet her in real life.
It’s the beginning of almost every catfishing tale. But Perrier’s story has a twist: She actually ended up with the man whose photos her catfisher was using to lure her.
In an interview with the Atlantic published on Thursday, Perrier said that “Ronnie” had purported that he was 34, from the West Midlands in England — about 100 miles from Perrier, who was in London.
In reality, Ronnie was a fictional person created by a 55-year-old man named Alan Stanley, who told the Atlantic that he had created the alter ego to be everything that he wasn’t. Stanley used the photos of Adem Guzel, a Turkish model and actor whose images he had randomly found on Google.
After six months of “Ronnie” refusing to meet her in person, Perrier downloaded Reverse Image Search, an app that searches the internet to find the original sources of photos — and was devastated by what she found.
“Some pics Ronaldo had sent me of food from a holiday to Italy traced back to a Tripadvisor account — and the name on it was Alan,” she told The Daily Mail back in April.
She eventually confronted the man she had been speaking to, and the relationship fell apart.
A year later, she decided to reach out to Guzel himself after finding him on Facebook, feeling as if she should protect other people from online scams like the one she went through.
“Hello Adem, we don’t know each other but a year ago I met a guy online and that man is using your picture and pretends he is you under another name,” she had written, according to the Atlantic. “I wasn’t sure if getting in touch with you was a good idea but I needed you to know, kind regards, Emma.”
He responded — and three months later, they “met” via video call. Since then, Guzel has moved nearly 2,000 miles from Turkey to be with her in London.
“‘I was so nervous at the airport when I went to pick him up,” she told The Daily Mail. “He came up to me smiling, and we hugged. I burst into tears. Now we are taking each day as it comes, but I have never been happier.”
Guzel plans to pursue his acting career while in London, and though he’s obviously quite different from “Ronnie,” Perrier said that the two have fallen in love.
“I knew there were people in Turkey stealing my identity but I had no idea it was happening in the UK too,” Guzel told The Daily Mail. “I don’t know what to say about Alan. Sometimes what he did makes me angry, but sometimes I feel grateful to him because I would never have met Emma.”