PHOTOS: Five Historic Hoaxes
Soon after being introduced to Te'o, Lennay Kekua told him that she had been in a serious car accident, and later that she was losing her battle with leukemia. It seems that Te'o never actually met the woman he called his girlfriend, though he says the two exchanged many text messages, e-mails, and telephone calls. Much is still murky about the case, and it's not clear what role, if any, Te'o had in the deception. Theories range from the whole thing being a cynical publicity stunt to Te'o being the victim of a cruel hoax.
It is not uncommon for people to fake cancer and other serious diseases, usually for sympathy and attention. For example, in 2009 a young woman named Ashley Kirilow made news for fighting bravely against breast, ovarian, brain and liver cancers. She started a charity called Change for a Cure, which asked people to donate their spare change so she could donate the money to cancer research. Fundraisers were held for her, and a Toronto charity flew terminally ill Ashley to Disney World as her dying wish. Altogether over $20,000 was raised for her. Kirilow eventually admitted that she never had cancer. She had shaved her head and eyebrows to fake the signs of chemotherapy, and had spent much of the money on personal expenses.