The reality star tells PEOPLE she was targeted by an online catfisher

By Emily Strohm
October 14, 2015 08:00 AM
David Becker/TLC

Meri Brown was still dealing with the changing dynamics in her polygamist family when she faced yet another challenge.

After she agreed to divorce her husband Kody so he could legally marry his fourth wife Robyn and adopt her three kids, the Sister Wives star was catfished into an online relationship by a woman impersonating a man.

“I became fearful of the online relationship as I became aware of the deception,” Brown tells PEOPLE. “I didn’t know how to get out of the situation without putting myself, family, and friends at greater risk. It was a very difficult time. I had a lot of anxiety.”

The reality star was under the impression she was speaking to a Chicago businessman online, but was in fact tricked by a woman pretending to be him.

Though it wasn’t easy to break the news to her husband Kody and fellow Sister Wives stars Janelle, Christine and Robyn, she eventually came clean.

“My family was very concerned for our safety and angry that we had been targeted,” she says. “They were relieved once I told them what was really going on and saddened that I had been so afraid of involving them that I didn’t go to them sooner.”

Now the family of 17 is remaining supportive of Brown, as they focus on moving forward.

“Our family is holding strong together, as we always have and always will.”

For more on how Brown was catfished, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday