I met Veronika Larsson in the online commentary section of The Guardian newspaper's website.
In early August she wrote, under username TheIneffableSwede, about how she was subjected to sexual harassment in one of the world’s biggest online games. After having been ignored by the game’s moderators she turned to its CEO – who reacted by cutting her off because of “the nagging about this problem."
The story was so remarkable that The Guardian quoted it in full in a blog entry.
At The Guardian’s site Veronika had written unusually long and intelligent commentary for over a year and, because she claimed to be Swedish, I decided that I wanted to interview her about her experience.
By reading all of her 3,600 comments and making notes of the personal information she disclosed, I soon found out her true identity: Veronika Larsson. She said she was born in Malmö, but had later moved to Berkeley, Calif., and then London, where she studied economics at prestigious schools.
In my research, I found hundreds of photos that she had published, showing an active and exciting social life, with romantic partners and friends. She was in almost all the pictures herself: A young girl, 23 years old, she wrote, with a winning smile and long, blonde hair.
She had been online since 2007, in over a dozen different social media and websites. Among these Google+, YouTube, Second Life, Blogger, a personal webpage and a number of commentary fields at different newspapers. She loved books and frequently quoted Hemingway and made references to the mindsets of the ancient Greeks.
But when I called the Swedish Tax Agency, I learned that no Veronika Larsson had been born in Malmö in 1989, '90 or '91. And neither the Cathedral School in Lund nor the London School of Economics, where she supposedly studied, could report that they had had a student called Veronika Larsson.
What really confirmed my suspicion that Veronika Larsson was a fake identity was a blog entry by writer Richard Cox. In the blog entry, from November 2012, he described how Veronika had contacted him in 2007 on Myspace.
They began a long email correspondence that stopped when Richard, after having noted oddities in Veronika’s IP addresses, questioned whether she really was who she claimed to be. And he was struck by how intelligent she was.
”In long discussions she predicted, for example, the great financial crisis in 2008," he tells me over the phone.
Veronika Larsson had also wreaked havoc at the political community My Left Wing, and here she had used other signatures than the one I had gotten to know.
For example, she claimed to be a British ex-soldier whose son had died tragically. My Left Wing’s founder, American Maryscott O’Connor, doesn’t want to tell me much because she suspects that I’m Veronika. But she tells me that her memories are in no way good.
“Veronika almost single-handedly managed to put my blog in ruins. And it used to be popular and blooming,” she says.
Despite her large Internet footprint and the manic need to tell her story, there is no way to determine who is behind Veronika’s keyboard.
I had one suspect, a woman with a similar name who worked at a school and a voice message from Veronika to compare her with. But a colleague of the woman told me her voice was in no way similar to Veronika’s.
Maybe the trail isn't cold yet: The blonde young woman who Veronika has stolen photos from for six years wants to set the record straight. Her name is Tiffany Olson.
“It is so bizarre, I don’t even know what to think about it. The first link you sent me was the personal webpage, and then I thought, 'Oh God, there really is somebody who does this based on me.' I had no idea," she says on the phone.
Tiffany describes herself as an ”ordinary American girl” and had never heard about Veronika before I contacted her.
Now, she is thinking of tuning in to ”Catfish," a documentary show on MTV that goes after people who fake identities online. I tell her the story would be huge if it ended up on MTV and may make her famous. Wouldn’t that be difficult?
“It would be better to be known for that than being know for somebody I’m not,” she says. “And for no other reason, I would really like to know what I’m doing nowadays.”
For the full-length English version of this real life Catfish saga, click here.