The internet has forever changed how people date. Gone are the days when dating websites were only used by desperate singletons who couldn’t land a date in real life. Now there is less stigma associated with meeting online – in fact, it’s how one-in-five newly formed couples meet.
But as is the case with everything online, what you see isn’t always what it appears to be – something this woman learned the hard way. A good example of this comes in the form of online shopping. Hilarious tweets have spawned from unfortunate purchases comparing the photographs that convinced people to part with their cash and the reality what they actually ended up buying. But catfishes are in a whole different league from dodgy eBay sellers. The term catfish refers to anyone who pretends to be someone they are not online, regardless of whether it is on Facebook or a dating app, and it is one of the biggest dangers of online dating. In a very modern love story, one young woman has opened up about how she was catfished by a 55-year-old man pretending to be the model featured above on a dating website, but after discovering the truth, she ended up falling in love with the model he pretended to be. Thirty-five-year-old Emma Perrier from Richmond, London, joined dating website Zoosk in 2015 after an eight-month relationship broke down. She works as a restaurant manager and, because of her antisocial hours, decided she’d have a better chance of finding love online. Shortly after joining Zoosk, she began chatting with a handsome young model called Ronaldo ‘Ronnie’ Scicluna, but, despite her attraction to him, he always had an excuse when asked to meet up in real life – claiming that he spent most of his free time at his parents’ villa in France. Little did she know that the entire time she was talking to him, she was flirting with a balding 55-year-old divorcé who had found photographs of the model online. Amazingly, the two exchanged intimate messages and even phone calls before the truth was uncovered. In fact, they’d gone as far as saying “I love you” without having met up, or even kissed. “I love telling people how the two of us met. I don’t think I’ll ever tire of it,” Emma said of her boyfriend whose real name is Adam. “That fraudster did us a massive favor.”
Because of Ronnie’s incessant excuses about why he couldn’t meet up with Emma in real life, she asked if they could Facetime, however, he refused, saying, “That’s just for teenagers.” “It sounds crazy, I know, but I actually thought I did love him,” she said. “He sent me 300 photographs and we spoke several times a day, messaging one another between times.”
“He knew everything that was going on in my life, all my innermost thoughts and feelings. He seemed so loving and caring that I felt confident about sharing those things with him.”
“He was also very complimentary about me, obviously doing everything in his power to make me fall for him. And it worked – I really did.”
Emma’s working hours were so antisocial that she rarely got a chance to see her friends, let alone tell them about the handsome stranger who had been charming her online. The only person she told about Ronnie was her twin sister Gaelle, who lived in France. Isolated by her job, she was the ideal prey for a catfish like “Ronnie” – AKA Alan Stanley, a divorced father of one from Stratford-upon-Avon. As he charmed her, Stanley offered Emma helpful suggestions about how she could improve her life. When she told him that she had a three-hour commute to work, he suggested that she would be better off finding a job closer to her home and that was something she did. After starting her new job as a manager at an Italian restaurant in 2016, Emma’s new colleagues were miffed that she had never actually met her “boyfriend” and, not wanting to see her get her heart broken, they began to suggest that something was wrong. “Maybe he’s not who he says he is,” a colleague suggested to her. “He could be an old man. Or he could be a psycho.” Despite this warning, Emma refused to believe that Ronnie was anything other than the man of her dreams. By the spring of 2016, Emma’s family knew about Ronnie, six months into their apparent relationship. As she had still to meet him, they too advised her that something was seriously wrong and told her to stop talking to him. “I didn’t want to listen to them or believe for one moment that this lovely man I’d fallen for wasn’t who he said he was,” Emma revealed. “But by then I was getting very frustrated by his endless excuses as to why we couldn’t meet and had enough niggling doubts to do some digging.” In an attempt to uncover the truth, Emma downloaded an app which enabled her to search for the origins of images, Reverse Image Search, and that was when the truth finally came to light – she had been catfished for an entire year. The man that she thought was called Ronnie was, in fact, Adam Guzel, a model and actor from Turkey. Horrified by the discovery, Emma began to learn more about Adam Guzel, eventually ending up on his Facebook and Twitter accounts.
“Seeing images of this man I thought I was in love with, leading a life I knew nothing about in a different country, was so shocking I felt winded,” Emma said.
“As I tried to figure out who the hell this man was that I’d been speaking to all these months, it sounds like a cliché but the blood ran cold through my body and I began to cry.”
After discovering Adam, Emma messaged Ronnie, hoping against hope that it was all part of an elaborate mix-up, and he even had the audacity to play along with the lie, claiming that he was also Adam and that the pictures were from his career as a model when he was younger. Still not wanting to believe the blatant truth, Emma demanded that Ronnie agree to Facetime her so that she could see who he really was. He once again refused, but even this wasn’t enough to make Emma cut contact with him. Then, in August 2016, when Ronnie sent her a picture of a fish, she ironically discovered who he really was. Once again using Reverse Image Search, Emma traced the picture to a TripAdvisor review written by a man named Alan Stanley. It didn’t take her long to find his Twitter account, which revealed a balding man in his 50s and not the handsome man she thought she had fallen for.
“As all the pieces slotted into place, it was devastating,” Emma revealed. “Facing up to the fact that someone who had said he loved me had gone to such lengths to hurt and humiliate me was almost impossible to bear.”
The next time that “Ronnie” called her, Emma finally confronted him about his lies, asking, “Is your real name Alan?” Even though he had been caught, Alan refused to admit that the game was up, and said “No”, but Emma cried back “But it is, it is, it is.” The 55-year-old then accused Emma of having trust issues, and she said, “Don’t talk to me about trust, Alan Stanley!” Later that day, however, he finally admitted the truth, calling it “a big error of judgment – the worst and biggest mistake of my life”, followed by a photograph of his less than handsome face – not pictured below! “I called my sister and wept down the phone to her for an hour,” Emma said. “Of course, I’d known, deep down, by then that ‘Ronnie’ didn’t exist, but having full confirmation meant I couldn’t even kid myself anymore.” “I felt so hurt and so foolish for falling for such a deception.” Not wanting anyone else to be duped by Alan, Emma messaged Adam on Facebook to inform him that his pictures were being used to catfish women on dating websites and that’s when this very modern love story finally took a turn for the better. Unsurprisingly, Adam’s photographs had been used to catfish women in the past, however, when he learned that someone outside his native Turkey had been catfished, he decided to reply to her message, furious that she had been deceived to that extent. Emma suggested that two had a Facetime call, and when she finally saw the face of the man she had fallen in love with, she burst into tears. “You’re so real,” she recalls saying. “You actually exist.” To begin with, the two talked about Alan’s deception, but it wasn’t long before sparks began to fly between the pair. Emma and Adam eventually grew so close that they decided to meet up in London last April. Needless to say, it was an emotional moment for Emma – she was going to meet the man she had supposedly begun talking to over a year and a half before.
“I’m finally going to meet my Ronnie,” she texted Adam.”I’m not sure if I should thank you or detest you for that.”
The two met at Heathrow Airport, and Emma said of the meeting, “It’s impossible to describe my feelings seeing this beautiful man, who I’d never met but had such deep affection for, smiling and waving at me.” “We hugged and then, as we were waiting for a taxi, Adam turned and kissed me and it felt amazing, like coming home.” Not wanting to rush the relationship, which began under such unbelievable circumstances, Adam initially slept on Emma’s sofa, however, he soon graduated to sharing her bed. “I almost slipped up a couple of times in the beginning and called him Ronnie, but now he’s just Adam to me,” Emma said. “He’s so kind, loving and gentle – everyone who meets him is smitten. It’s hard to believe that such a terrible experience could have led me to something, and someone, so wonderful.” Adam and Emma are not married, and, because he is not a British citizen, every six months he has to return to Istanbul to retain his tourist visa. This meant that the two had to part very briefly in October last year, but with this exception, they have been inseparable for nine months. The happy couple loves going to the cinema, walking, and cooking. Emma still works as a restaurant manager, and, while she is doing that, Adam is busy writing a screenplay. In March of this year, Adam is taking Emma back to Turkey to meet his family, although he is “delighted” and “disgusted” by what brought them together.
“I was aware that my photos had been used by men creating fake dating profiles back in Turkey, which my agent had closed down, but I couldn’t believe it when Emma got in touch to say someone had done the same in England,” Adam said.
“It felt a bit sinister, which made me angry towards this man. At first, I thought, ‘Why me?’. But now, knowing that is what led to me meeting and falling in love with Emma, I think, ‘Thank God it was my images he chose.’”
Despite Emma’s relationship with Ronnie being far from sensible, she has clearly learned from her mistake. She and Adam currently have no plans to marry and the two were simply focused on enjoying each other’s company for the time being. “We’re not making plans at the moment, but we wouldn’t marry just to enable one of us to live in the other’s country,” Emma said. “For now, we’re just enjoying our time together, but I’m sure this is just the beginning of our story.” But what about the villain of this fairy story? What happened to Stanley? The 55-year-old was approached by journalists after news of Emma and Adam’s extraordinary relationship broke. He revealed that he had used Adam’s pictures because he thought that no women would be interested in him. “I was going through a low point in my life and wanted someone to talk to,” Stanley said. “I know what I did was wrong, but the more she involved me the harder it was to come clean.” When asked about her relationship with Adam, which he inadvertently started, he said, “I think it’s brilliant that Emma and Adam have met; it’s almost like fate.” After getting her happy ending, Emma’s feeling towards the man who made it happen are mixed. On the one hand, she resents him for catfishing her and on the other, she is glad that his actions brought her together with Adam. “I’m a great believer in destiny,” Emma said. “So a little part of me is grateful to Alan, because, if he hadn’t put me through what he did I’d never have met Adam, who I really believe is the love of my life.”