Is ‘catfishing’ a crime?

“I feel violated, mentally and physically, by what he did” said Anna Rowe, one victim of catfishing.

Anna Rowe, 44, believed she had met the man of her dreams when she began speaking to a man named ‘Antony Ray’ online. But little did she know that 14 months after their first encounter it would be revealed everything he told her was a lie.

Antony Ray was not his name and in fact he was married with kids. He had used photos of a Bollywood actor and even had a seperate phone dedicated to keeping up the persona of his fake life.

Rowe looked upset when speaking to Channel 4 about what had happened to her. Now she wants catfishing to be illegal.

The Oxford Dictionary defines ‘catfishing’ as the act of “luring someone into a relationship by means of a fictional online persona”.

Catfishing has become an increasingly common phenomenon over the past 10 years, with a show named “Catfish: The TV Show” even being created to call people out on their fake profiles.

Voice of London spoke to a policeman, who wishes to remain anonymous, from Brent Metropolitan Police: “Catfishing in terms of online relationships is a problem, but people make the choice to get involved in online relationships. It becomes a police issue when people are being scammed out of money.”

Anna Rowe has started a petition, which has almost 50,000 signatures, to make catfishing illegal. She believes it should be a crime under the Fraud Act 2006, which states “a person is in breach of this if he dishonestly makes a false representation, and is untrue or misleading”.

Stockport MP Ann Coffey urged the House of Commons in July 2017 to bring in a law to criminalise catfishing, although nothing was done.

Words: Daisy Newman | Subbing: Elise Fritts

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