IN the world of online dating and social media, many have fell victim to the act of catfishing.
But what exactly is catfishing and how can you protect yourself online? Here’s everything you need to know.
What is catfishing?
Catfishing is a deceptive activity in which a person creates a fictional persona or fake identity on a social networking service.
The person catfishing uses another person’s photos and life facts to make them appear as a real person.
Often, they then lure their victim into a relationship under a false identity.
A number of television shows have been created surrounding the act of catfishing, including Catfish UK.
Is catfishing illegal?
Currently there is no specific law that deems the act of catfishing illegal.
Internet law specialists Cohen Davis solicitors explained that with the exception of harassment, “there are no criminal laws against impersonation on social media”.
However, although fake online profiles on social media and dating apps are not illegal themselves, ”there are other activities that engage catfishing or fake online accounts that may turn the otherwise lawful activity into activity which is unlawful”, the firm added.
If a catfish illegally obtains money then they could be found guilty of fraud.
If you think you’ve lost money because of an online scam or fraud and you’re in England or Wales you can call 0300 123 2040 or make an online report.
Similarly, a catfish could also be charged with a number of non-consensual sex related criminal offences if romance fraud has resulted sexual contact.
In this case, any consent given by the victim would be rendered void.
Despite there being no specific law to date, planned changes to the Online Safety Bill will see social media sites and search engines forced to stamp out fraudsters and scammers on their platforms.
The change will improve protections for internet users from the potentially devastating impact of fake ads, including where criminals impersonate celebrities.
Speaking on the planned changes, in 2022, Security Minister Damian Hinds said: ”Crimes like romance and investment fraud leave lifelong scars on their victims and can completely destroy their finances and ability to trust.
”Organised crime groups have discovered new ways to take full advantage of people, using increasingly sophisticated methods which would trick even the most scrupulous of individuals.
”We know that these crimes are on the rise and with all of us spending longer online, criminals are spotting their opportunities to abuse people’s trust and trick them more and more.
”The changes that we are announcing mean that online and social media companies will have to acknowledge these issues and take robust action to combat the scourge of online fraud, and take more responsibility to protect their users from this high-harm crime.
”Innocent victims must not be taken advantage of and conned online by fraudsters.”
How to spot a catfish
If you’re currently dating online or are considering joining a dating app, it’s important to know how to spot a catfish.
Here’s are some clear signs to look out for that suggest somebody may be deceiving you.
- No social media or social media images appear to be fake or ”too perfect”
- Sparse information on their social media or dating app profile
- Things will escalate to love very quickly
- They promise things that seem to good to be true
- They make up excuses not to meet in person, speak over the phone or chat on a video call
- Refusing to answer questions about themselves
- If they persistently ask for money or gifts before meeting
According to MTV Catfish expert Nev Shuman, ”If you haven’t seen any definitive proof that the person is real, whether that’s a video they’ve sent you, or a picture of their ID, or best case scenario is obviously a FaceTime with them, you should always be suspicious.”