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Gay ‘Instadaddy’ Feels Bad After Catfish Have Used His Photos To Con Women Out Of Millions


Tom Ernsting is a swoon-worthy model with salt and pepper hair affectionately known on social media as “Instadaddy.”

But despite his hunky physique and seemingly affable charm, scores of women he has never even met loathe him.


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A post shared by Tom Ernsting (@tomdeanernsting)

The 60-year-old—who has a summer home in South Haven and escapes to Naples, Florida, during the winter—said of the many broken-hearted women who contacted him:

“They scream at me and they yell at me for ruining their lives. The stories I’ve heard are insane.”

Ernsting, who is gay and a proud father, told the Detroit Free Press his online photos have been used by catfish to scam women for years.

One such female victim allegedly handed over her credit card information to someone she assumed was the model and racked up $30,000 in charges.

Others claimed to have given him $500 to help him cross the border into the United States to visit them but never showed up.

Some said they lost money after loading Apple iTunes gift cards with cash meant for Ernsting.


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A post shared by Tom Ernsting (@tomdeanernsting)

The professional model said:

“It’s just crazy. It definitely took off during [the virus] because I think people were even more desperate and more lonely.”

“It’s sad because they fall in love with me.” 


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A post shared by Tom Ernsting (@tomdeanernsting)

According to the news outlet, Ernsting grew up in Chicago and is a graduate of the University of Michigan.

He retired from his previous job as a sales executive in the hotel industry and went into modeling work while simultaneously freelancing as an event manager.

When the pandemic hit, his modeling career began to take off.

After gaining more than 150,000 Instagram followers, Ernsting became a paid social media influencer for sports athletic brand Jed North and appeared in commercials for Ashley Furniture HomeStore and MyPillow.

“There aren’t a lot of people my age who are that active on Instagram.”

“I’m attractive enough to draw people in but I’m not threatening, so people use my image to draw people in the door.”


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A post shared by Tom Ernsting (@tomdeanernsting)

Regarding the scammers who stole his pictures to exploit desperate women looking for love, Ernsting said:

“I can’t believe my image is a business for these people. They’re making a living off my image.”

“They’re probably making more than I ever have.”

Social-distancing due to the pandemic has caused a spike in romance scams similar to Ernsting’s scenario.


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A post shared by Tom Ernsting (@tomdeanernsting) stated Tom Ernsting was one of the most catfished profiles in the world.

The website noted:

“We estimated that millions of dollars were stolen from fake profiles using Tom’s images since there were so many of them.”

According to the Federal Trade Commission, $201 million was lost from romance scams in 2019, which is a 40% increase from 2018.

The numbers are expected to go even higher in 2020.

The increasing problem prompted the FTC to launch for consumers to report romance or other such scams regardless of whether or not they lost money.

Consumers are urged to never give money or gift cards to a stranger online, no matter how irresistible they appear, and block them if they are persistent.

So when you see Instadaddy hit you up for money on social media, don’t fall for it. Keep that cash in your pocket.

Koh Mochizuki

Written by Koh Mochizuki

Koh Mochizuki is a New York-based actor and writer. Originally hailing from Los Angeles, he received his B.A. in English literature and is fluent in Japanese. Disney parks are his passion, and endless cups of coffee are a necessity. Instagram: kohster Twitter: @kohster1