Newcastle woman speaks out about meeting her Catfish online

A Newcastle woman has spoken about her heartbreak after finding out the man she was speaking to online was using a fake profile, also known as Catfishing.

It comes after a petition has been created to list fake online profiles as a criminal offence under the Fraud Act and for Catfish suspects to be prosecuted.

Suspects known as a ‘Catfish’ create a fake online profile to start relationships with a stranger for either romantic, financial or personal gain. The Catfish can use photographs of a stranger, a fake name and false details about themselves to create a full fake online identity.

Some relationships stay online with the two involved never meeting whilst other encounters progress to meeting in person and the victim never finding out their true identity.

Kate from Newcastle met her online Catfish a few years ago: “I was just in shock and upset that I had basically got really close to someone who wasn’t who he said he was,” she said.

“Being young I felt totally in love with him. He didn’t speak to me the whole time when we met because he was too nervous and then he stopped talking to me for about three months after.”

A survey conducted by Which? last year (2016) showed that more than half of online dating users believe they have seen a fake profile and two in five have been approached by someone online asking for money.

The survey found that Tinder and Plenty of Fish were the most popular dating sites and apps that people thought they had seen a fake profile. Although nearly six out of ten people believed they saw a fake profile only three in ten said they reported these profiles when they came across one.

A poll created on Twitter with nearly 3,000 voters showed that 55 per cent believed Catfishes should be prosecuted, whilst 45 per cent did not agree it is a crime.

Kate’s Catfish uploaded photographs of someone else and mostly showed body shots or pictures that didn’t show his face online.

“He had shirtless selfies and posted pictures all over Facebook showing him lifting weights. We spoke for about six months before we met up and he was not what his photos were like. Online he was outgoing, proud and popular but in real life he was shy and retiring.”

Online users are no longer safe if they misbehave with new legal guidelines able to prosecute internet trolls, cyber bullies and fraudsters who coax money from victims. However, creating an online profile and seducing someone into an online or offline relationship under a fake identity is not considered a crime.

Dating fraud reports rose nearly a third in a two year period (2013-2015) according to Action Fraud. Users are able to report a fake profile that has persuaded them to hand over money. Receiving around seven new dating fraud reports daily the average financial loss of victims in the UK is £10,000.

Kate, who is now 21 said: “I felt quite unnerved by the whole thing and I deactivated my Facebook profile for a while after that.

“There should be more people made aware especially to the younger generations because it doesn’t always have nice intentions.”

For more information on fake profiles visit Online Dating Association and Action Fraud.

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