Anna Rowe met Anthony Ray through the Tinder dating app, and they started a romance. They communicated for more than a year until one day Anna discovered that his Internet account was complete fiction. Her boyfriend was not Anthony at all; besides, he was married and had children.
To make dating easier, he posted photos of an actor from Bollywood in his Tinder profile, and, as it turned out, managed to seduce more than one woman. “He pretended to be quite a nice guy, he used my desire for love that I craved, he used me as a hotel with all the comforts,” says Anna. The practice of setting up fake accounts for romantic dating is known as “catfishing” and is nothing more than a form of online dating scams. Having survived this bitter experience, Anna placed a petition, demanding that such behavior should be made illegal online.
But is it possible, and how serious of an offense can such behavior be considered?
According to the British website called Which that defends the interests of consumers more than half of all users of sites and mobile dating applications have at least once encountered a fake account online.
According to the British National Bureau of Anti-Fraud, in 2018 a record number of “romantic scams” were registered, 3,889 people were victims, losing a total of 39 million pounds (48.6 million dollars).
A special program called “Catfish” popped up on the television that focused on the tactics that online dating scammers use to manipulate their victims.
Under current British law, creating a fake account is not a crime, although some activities related to “catfishing” may be considered illegal. For example, if a victim of fraud gave a scammer their money – this can be considered a fraud. If someone under the guise of someone else begins to post insulting messages or photos on the network in order to humiliate someone, then this person can also be convicted according to the law on defamation.
In 2014, the House of Lords of the British Parliament concluded in its report that the current legislative framework is sufficient to ensure criminal prosecution for crimes committed on the Internet.
At the same time, in October of 2016, the Royal Criminal Prosecutor’s Office issued new recommendations to law enforcement agencies for the correct classification of network crimes, such as trolling or cyberbullying.
Anna Rowe believes that this is not enough.
“I didn’t agree and would never agree now to have intimate relationships with a married man – especially with a man who had numerous sexual relations with different women. His actions were clearly deliberate, aimed at exploiting women, and yet the law does not find his actions to be criminal, “she wrote in her petition.
Tony Neath, executive director of “Get Safe Online,” an independent service that advises people on how to keep yourself safe on the Internet, agrees that catfishing can have dire consequences on scam victims.
“Such deception can destroy lives. I know of cases when people committed suicide – it had such an effect on them, he says. “It can affect the mental state of a person, lead to depression and to the fact that victims can no longer trust anyone.” Fortunately, there are some services that protect their users from such scenarios. You will never come across any jump4love scams because the service is reliable and secure.
Many dating sites give users tips on how to recognize a scammer and not get caught by their tricks. The popular dating service called Match.com even has a team of experts who verify the authenticity of personal photos and ads and remove dubious ones.
There are also automatic screening systems that identify suspicious accounts and do not allow re-registration. Another site, Lovestruck, has a verification service, which verifies its users with the help of other social networks that a user is not married and does not seem to impersonate someone else.
How to apply the new law?
Tony Neath previously served in the police. In his opinion, we as a society need to discuss the issue of how to punish dating scammers, although he understands that in practice the new law will not be easy to apply. “I am very sorry for this poor woman [Anna], but we must be realistic about what we specifically want and how the police will apply the new law,” said the expert.