Who TF Did I Marry?: What we all can learn from Reesa Teesa’s epic tale of love and deception

A young woman watches Reesa Teesa’s TikTok saga “Who TF Did I Marry?” on her phone.

Reesa Teesa's wild story of falling in love with a scammer had us all glued to our phones. Here's what we can learn from her experience.

Once seen as a last resort for people searching for love, online dating has become not only socially acceptable but kind of the de facto way many people date. And while the vast majority of those people don’t run into anything worse than too many awkward or boring nights out, a recent viral TikTok saga shined a spotlight on the darker side of internet romance.

The series, which unfolds over the course of 50 TikTok videos for an epic total time of about 8 hours, is about a woman who calls herself Reesa Teesa and her tumultuous relationship with a man she dubbed "Legion.”

The story starts in a fairly standard way, with the two meeting online just before the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown, shacking up when their city went into shelter-in-place, and falling quickly in love. But it quickly spirals from romcom to thriller as Legion’s carefully constructed false realities start to fall in the face of, you know, reality. (If you have time, it’s worth watching Reesa Teesa unspool the whole thing on her TikTok channel. If you don’t, The Cut did a great summary that you can read here.)

In a world where our potential romantic partners no longer come with a stamp approval from our larger social networks, how can we truly know if someone (to quote Nev on the hit TV show “Catfish”) “really is who they say they are?” Let’s dissect Reesa Teesa’s story and see what we can learn.

The red flags in Reesa’s story

Reesa's story with "Legion" unfolded like a modern cautionary tale, filled with warning signs that, in hindsight, illuminated the path of deception she was led down. Her experience demonstrates how easily we can be swept up in a whirlwind romance, only to find we’ve ignored the early warning signals. They’re also very similar to the red flags you’re likely to see in most romance scams.

Here are some specific red flags that popped up during Reesa and Legion’s relationship.

1. Multiple identities

Reesa matched with the man on two different platforms, where he used his full name on one and a nickname with different photos on another. This inconsistency is a red flag, indicating a potential attempt to hide his identity or intentions.

2. Moving way too fast

Reesa and Legion moved in together just a month after meeting, during the early days of the pandemic lockdown. This swift move, while more common in the early days of the pandemic than it might have been during “normal” times, could be seen as rushing the natural progression of a relationship. This is a super common tactic used by manipulators and romance scammers, who want their victims to fall in love ASAP.

3. Fishy finances

Legion claimed to have invested his earnings from Arena football well and showed Reesa a letter ostensibly approving him for a $750,000 mortgage. He also claimed to have multiple bank accounts and an offshore account, none of which Reesa saw proof of. These unverified claims, particularly involving large sums of money, are red flags indicating potential financial deception.

4. Weird real estate transactions

Legion purportedly made offers on houses and engaged in virtual closings that never actually happened. He provided excuses for delayed inspections and changing interest rates when confronted with inconsistencies. This kind of deception in significant life events like purchasing a home is a major red flag.

5. No receipts

Legion avoided providing verifiable proof for his financial assets, job position, and personal background. He manipulated situations to avoid verification, like when he was supposedly arranging a wire transfer for a car that never materialized.

6. Unnecessary drama and lies

Legion made bizarre claims, such as the neighbor hitting on him and false stories about Reesa’s ex. He also faked personal interactions and emergencies. Creating that kind of drama is a red flag, often intended to distract from other lies or to test and manipulate a partner’s responses.

7. Major inconsistencies in his stories

Reesa’s discovery of inconsistencies in Legion’s social security number and his nonexistent history at San Diego State where he claimed to have played football are red flags. They suggest that he fabricated significant parts of his life story.

8. Isolation and control

Legion’s behavior increasingly isolated Reesa, from lying about interactions with neighbors to moving her away from her support system under the guise of house hunting. Isolation is a common tactic used by abusers to gain control over their victims

General online dating red flags
Of course, Reesa’s story is so compelling because it’s so specific—and so wild. And while many of the red flags she ran into with Legion can apply to other people’s experience, we thought it would be useful to really highlight some more general red flags to keep an eye out for when online dating.

  • Rushing intimacy or serious commitment: Fast-paced developments in a relationship can indicate manipulative tactics to gain trust.
  • Inconsistencies in their stories or profiles: Discrepancies in details or backstory suggest a fabricated persona.
  • Avoiding video calls or face-to-face meetings: This can be a sign that someone is hiding their identity. Meet in person (in a public place) ASAP!
  • Requesting money or sharing financial details prematurely: A scammer will usually have a big sob story paired with a financial ask.
  • Overly curated or too-good-to-be-true social media profiles: If they seem to perfect? They probably are.

How to figure out whether or not someone really is who they say they are online

Reesa finally figured out that Legion was lying about basically everything when she decided to become her own digital PI. You can do it, too. Here’s how.

  • Utilize reverse image searches: Don’t be shy about popping a profile image into a reverse image search, like Google Images or TinEye. These tools can help you identify if the photo has been used somewhere else on the internet, like someone else’s profile or a stock image repository. This can be a red flag indicating a fake profile.
  • Scour social media for inconsistencies: Dive deep into your potential love interest’s social media presence across as many platforms as you can find. Look for consistency in their stories, friends, and activities. Genuine profiles usually have a history of interactions and consistency in the information provided. Be wary of profiles that have recently been created or have minimal content and interactions, because anyone who is of dating age has been only for a minimum of five years.
  • Check for digital footprints : A real person usually has multiple digital footprints. In addition to social media, check for any other online presence, such as a LinkedIn profile, publications, or mentions on other websites. A lack of online presence (when they claim professional achievements or affiliations) can be a red flag.
  • Hop on a video chat: Insist on video calls instead of just texting or voice calls. Video interactions can help confirm the identity of the person and help you figure out if they’re real. Be cautious if they consistently avoid video calls or provide excuses for not being able to engage in one. (No one’s camera is always broken.)
  • Listen to your gut: Even after all checks and questions, if something feels off, pay attention to that intuition. Your subconscious might be picking up on subtleties that your conscious mind is overlooking. Trusting your instincts can be a crucial step in steering clear of scammers like Legion.

Navigating the world of online dating can be tricky—anyone who has gone on more than one Tinder date knows that. By staying alert to the warning signs we've talked about, you're not just looking out for yourself—you're also helping to create a safer environment for everyone else who’s dating online. Because aren’t we all just looking for love? (Well, all of us except the scammers, that is.)

Emma McGowan
  • Emma McGowan
Emma McGowan is a privacy advocate & managing editor at Gen, formerly a freelance writer for outlets like Buzzfeed & Mashable. She enjoys reading, sewing, & her cats Dwight & Poe.

Editorial note: Our articles provide educational information for you. Our offerings may not cover or protect against every type of crime, fraud, or threat we write about. Our goal is to increase awareness about Cyber Safety. Please review complete Terms during enrollment or setup. Remember that no one can prevent all identity theft or cybercrime, and that LifeLock does not monitor all transactions at all businesses. The Norton and LifeLock brands are part of Gen Digital Inc. 


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