You’re a fake, baby. You can’t conceal it. Part V.

(Update on Esther Bea from Part IV. As of this writing, no response from her or the real lady who’s been victimized by Esther’s swiping.

I’m kinda wondering when this series will end myself. ‘Til then…)

Fake profiles aren’t limited to Facebook. Against my better judgment, I returned to online dating late last month. I will not name the app. It’s one you’ve probably never heard of.

I thought this app would lead to a different, better experience. Unfortunately, I’ve experienced a lot of the same nonsense on this app that I have on the apps you have heard of (Match, Bumble, Tinder, eHarmony, etc.).

That said, on this app, a lady from, supposedly, the town of Pickens liked my profile just today. She immediately wanted to move the discussion to Instagram — since she claimed she’s there more often.

The lady’s face is adorable and I let her know that. With a beautiful face, you’d think her IG page would be filled with selfies, right? WRONG! Just one photo, one profile pic, one fresh IG story, an archived story and that was about it for content. Alarms started sounding — but onward with conversation.

Erica Butler claimed to be in her mid-20s and an assistant principal at St. Joseph Prep in Pickens, Mississippi, located in Holmes County. She also claimed to relocate to her present position from Houston, Texas. Smart cookie, you say? Not when you consider she expressed the school’s name as “st Joseph prep” in chat. Alarms sounded louder.

During a lull, apparently because Erica had to take care of business, I pulled out the iPad to google “St. Joseph Prep” in Pickens. I found one in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, easily. But nothing turned up for a St. Joseph Prep in Pickens. Alarms sounded louder.

When the conversation resumed after her supposed break, Erica told me she was stressed out. “Our students are having a fundraiser and the deadline is at 3 so we’re desperately trying to find a buyer for our last shirt,” Erica messaged me on Instagram. Every last shirt must go?

She sent me this image…

…and she told me proceeds benefit the school’s special education department.

I asked if there’s a website for this fundraiser (while conveniently hiding the fact I googled this school and couldn’t find it).

“No, it’s just a little fundraiser the kids wanted to do at the beginning of the year,” Erica messaged me on Instagram.

Beginning of the year?!?!?! When did this fundraiser start? Just after January 1, 2023? Just after the first day of the academic year — going back to 2022? Either way, you’re down to one shirt and you’re sweating bullets over it? Really?

As the alarms sounded louder, I just went with it — just to see how much more nonsense Erica would spew. After further discussion, I flat out asked how I could order.

“All orders go through my boss,” Erica messaged me. She later gave me her boss’s number in the Instagram chat. Knowing Pickens is in the 662 area code, I was anticipating her boss’s digits starting with said 662 area code.

Nope. Erica gave me a number that started with an 832 area code — one of four area codes for the aforementioned city of Houston. Yup, I thought, we’ve got a falsehood here somewhere.

“832 area code? That’s Pickens?” I asked.

“Give me a second let me get his office number,” Erica messaged. And — moments later — Erica’s meager Instagram presence — is no more. She self-destructed her profile. #AnotherOneBitesTheDust

Circling back to the image, what’s alarming is there was no contact information for the school (“662-###-####”). There is no St. Joseph Prep branding or logo on the sample t-shirt image. What’s also troubling is, to put it in TV graphics terms, the “Upper Lower” of “Please Help Our Special Education department.” Notice how the first letter in each word of the phrase is capitalized — but “department” is all lowercase. The “Upper Lower” of “ST. Joseph k-12 Shirt Raffle” across the top is just as alarming as “st Joseph prep” in online messaging. Neatness counts, as any good educator would point out.

There’s also no secure web address listed. Per Erica, “All orders go through my boss.” Well, if that’s really the case, what if the boss is out of the office due to illness, a possible business trip, or even a family emergency? Do T-shirt sales suddenly halt in the boss’s absence? Her story, to be fair, would’ve made a bit more sense if we could order shirts through — wait for it — the aforementioned special education department. The public, myself included, would need a phone number starting with a 662 area code, instead of someone’s cell number that didn’t start 662, to order a T-shirt in this fundraiser.

In this writer’s opinion, it was obvious Erica was after me for more than “only $35”. As for Erica, the lady in her mid-20s, was she genuine? Were her selfies and Instagram stories original work or did she steal them from someone else? Since I only saw them for just a few hours and conversed with her in the span of only two hours, I can only assume the images and videos were of her making. One of her selfies had a big monitor reading “Welcome to 9th Grade English” — an apparent upgrade from my days in the classroom with chalkboards. If the image is legit, maybe she’s really a teacher and not the second in command of a school. And if she’s really working for a school district in Houston as a teacher, did she just commit violations of the acceptable internet use policy? If she’s really in the 832, no wonder she closed her IG account after my area code question.

ADDENDUM: Someone asked me if I thought Erica Butler is a real person. Likely, yes. I recall seeing in her dating profile a selfie apparently taken on an Election Day. In the selfie, she added an “I voted in Dallas County” sticker to the shirt she was wearing. So she must’ve been residing elsewhere in Texas at the time. I gather that dating profile has since self-destructed — unless she’s on the prowl elsewhere.

Sometimes, you don’t need to be tech savvy. Just a little common sense, detection of context clues, and the right questions win the day.

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