Choi posed as Kevin San Roman, a young man living in Spain with leukemia, and Kevin’s younger brother Lucas. The scam attracted hundreds of followers in the Miami area, and several teenage girls even thought that they were girlfriends with the two young, and very fictional, men. Choi posed as both brothers and other purported family members, stealing photos from the Internet and sending emails and text messages as members of the fictional Roman family. Choi even faked the death of the fictional Kevin San Roman.
Choi kept up a detailed blog, dating back to 2009, illustrating Kevin’s cancer treatments in frighteningly believable detail. There are innumerous disturbing details in the story, perhaps none more so than an incident when Choi waited outside one young girl’s house and then sent her a text message later saying that she (Kevin) had been outside but was too scared to knock.
Experts say Choi suffers from Münchausen disorder, a mental illness that causes people to fake illnesses to seek attention.”Münchausen by Internet” is an increasingly recognized subset of the disorder, whereby people create fake identities through social media. However, the disorder is rarely as complicated (or creepy) as the Choi case.
“The real motive is attention and sympathy and the power over others,” said Dr. Mark Feldman, a University of Alabama psychiatrist, while speaking to the Miami Herald about the case. “It does sound sadistic and predatory.”
No charges were filed in the case because no one suffered physical damages from the ruse.
This incident provides perhaps the perfect case study for why and how teenagers must be careful on the Internet. Social media is a wide-open online experience, and while that is the medium’s best feature, it can also lead to scams like this. As always, don’t accept friend requests from people you don’t know, and take every claim with a grain of salt.
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