Mother of two Samantha Thorne, 42, was catfished 25 times in one year after joining online dating website Plenty of Fish.
The term catfishing refers to when a person pretends to be someone else online, whether that’s by using pictures not of themselves, or lying about their identity.
During her time on Plenty of Fish, Samantha realised that she was a magnet for those kinds of users.
After a year of dating disasters, Samantha was put off the app, until last year when she tried it again and met her now partner David Tyson, 55.
It wasn’t until after she found her old “dating diary” that Samantha thought about turning her experiences into a book.
‘People are not always who they say they are’
Samantha, from Dartford, Kent, said: “I decided I’d give it a go - I was looking seriously because I wanted to find someone to settle down with.
“When I first started, I trusted everyone would be who they said they were - but the more people I spoke to, the more I learned people are not always who they say they are.
“It was a strange time in my life - it was fun at times, but you definitely need a thick skin.
“But I’ve got my happy ending now with my new man - so I won’t be using dating websites again.”
Samantha’s foray into internet dating began after her second marriage came to an end. She was going on around two dates a week throughout 2017 using the online dating site.
She said that she was inundated with messages, but quickly realised how many people online were catfishing.
‘I thought it was a joke at first’
Samantha said that one of her more unusual catfishing experiences included meeting up with an undercover swinger.
After a “really good” first date of drinks in the local pub, Samantha said she was excited for their second date and that he appeared to be “normal, kind and interesting”.
However, things took a turn for the bizarre when he suggested that they attended an adult’s sex club for swingers to swap partners with other members.
She said: “When he said there was somewhere he wanted to take me, I envisioned a nice restaurant - but he told me he “wanted to get other people involved”.
“I thought it was a joke at first because he’d never even hinted - if that’s your interest, it’s the kind of thing you should mention on your profile!
“I was pretty disappointed because we got on so well at first.”
‘It became clear his story was fake’
Other dating disasters include when Samantha started chatting to a man who claimed to be a rich model. After speaking every day for over a week, she felt that he was genuine, and they planned to meet for drinks.
However, a suspicious friend had some questions and began some behind-the-scenes detective work - with the help of reverse image searches, it was revealed that the so-called model’s photos had been lifted from an American online modelling portfolio.
Samantha had no idea who she’d been speaking to for over a week.
She said: “I had been sucked in - but it became clear his story was fake after we began digging.
“He sensed I’d figured it out and blocked me straight away - so I have no idea who I was speaking to for a week of my life!”
Samantha’s most unusual date was when she met up with someone who looked so different to his profile that she didn’t realise that she’d actually already dated him in the past. She said that the angles and lighting of the photos obscured his appearance so much that she didn’t even recognise him.
Samantha said: “I walked into the bar to meet him and as soon as I saw him, even with his back to me, I knew I’d met him for a date about seven years earlier.
“I was adamant we’d met before - but when I pointed it out, he argued against me and accused me of lying!”
‘A Year in the Life of Internet Dating’
During lockdown, Samantha decided to put her experiences out there for the world to see in the form of a book called “A Year in the Life of Internet Dating”.
The blurb of the book asks: “Curious about the world of online dating, never tried it but want to see what it’s all about?
“Maybe you have tried it and want to see whether other people have had a similar experience to you. Or maybe you just want to go on a real life rollercoaster with a fair few giggles chucked in there.”
It adds: “I’ve spent the last year keeping a diary about my most amusing dates, good and bad.
“My work friends used to eagerly await my next date, so they could hear the stories I had to tell, and they were the ones who told me that i should write a book because you jut couldn’t make this stuff up.
“So I did.”