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Teenager, posing as journalist, fools thousands on Twitter

Jan 25, 2014, 9:33 AM EDT

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Samuel Rhodes is a blond haired, blue eyed man wearing a sharp suit, sans tie. He looks the type that could be trusted to give out information related to press rumors, such as “Arsenal are very close to the signing of Gonzalo Higuaín” or “Kevin Davies has been offered a one year deal at the DW.” In his Twitter bio, Rhodes described himself as a freelance writer working for the Daily Telegraph and the Financial Times.

Except Samuel Rhodes is really Sam Gardiner, a 16 year old using a stock photograph off Google Images. The teenager, who states that he was frustrated with no one taking his opinions seriously, managed to convince over 20,000 followers that he was, in fact, “in the know.”

This sort of deception is certainly not uncommon on Twitter. It seems that every transfer window brings more fake soccer journalists out of the woodwork, tweeting rumors gleaned from the gossip pages and claiming access to inside information. They’ll gain a few thousand followers, perhaps, before getting rumbled by someone alert enough to realize this particular “writer” has never published a story.

Gardiner, whose account is now suspended, did better than most. Then again, he’s had practice. First he was “Dominic Jones”, pretending to work for Goal, before one of Goal’s journalists alerted Twitter to the hoax. Then Gardiner changed his name to @SamuelRhodes_ , with which he had more luck, boasting about 25,000 followers at one point. Correctly predicting Chelsea were about to sack Roberto Di Matteo boosted his credibility. So did interactions with players at Wigan.

It was Gardiner’s claim that Mohamed Salah’s move to Liverpool was imminent that eventually got him busted, however. The rumor picked up too much steam, with a journalist from the Telegraph eventually pointing out the deception to Twitter, who suspended Gardiner’s account.

A cautionary tale for those of us obsessed both with soccer and social media. With another week left in January, take stock of the rumors flying about: does it stem from a trusted source, or is it coming from someone seeking a few minutes of fame?

 (she’s real, she promises!)

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