A CAMPAIGN to make it illegal for a person to assume another’s identity online is to be launched.
The process, known as ‘catfishing’, has become ever more present in recent years with the rise of social media and online dating and an explosion in fake profiles, with an estimated 83million now in use across various platforms.
Rebecca Jane, 32, who founded The Lady Detective Agency in Clitheroe eight years ago, will launch the ‘Killing Catfish’ campaign on ITV’s Loose Women today after her friend Matthew Peacock fell victim to the scam.
Mr Peacock, who is a married professional model, was catfished for three years by a man who posed as him in a bid to gain illicit photographs and videos from unsuspecting women.
The man would turn up to dates and when Mr Peacock did not show he would claim to be his cousin and have dinner with his victims.
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Mr Peacock asked Mrs Jane to help and after an online hunt the man’s true identity was revealed and the pair confronted him.
Mrs Jane told how the man apologised and agreed to stop pretending to be Mr Peacock, but four days later he resumed his activities.
She said: “We are living in a society where our futures are online.
"Online dating is currently not a safe place, but it could be.
"I want people to put themselves in Matt’s position and ask how they would feel?
“Our reputations are all we have, and his reputation is entirely out of his control.
"Our agency has around 10 people every week coming to us saying they have had their identity stolen.
“We’re only at the tip of the iceberg, and the law needs to catch up quickly.
"This process needs to be made illegal, or the future for our children and online dating doesn’t bare thinking about.”
Mr Peacock added: “My catfisher didn’t just take my face, he gave me the persona of a person I wouldn’t even associate with, let alone like.
"The fake version of me is manipulative, deceitful and in my opinion mentally abuses women for his own sexual gratification.
"It’s a sad day when we can’t control our own reputation and public perception.”
Mrs Jane, whose company has offices in London, Birmingham, Cambridge and Orlando in the USA, said 'she would not rest' until the law had been changed.