It’s called catfishing and it’s terrifyingly common.
Imagine if your photo was being used in various fake romances – if someone was using your profile picture and all of your details to lure people in and start relationships with them online. It’s part of something called “catfishing” and it’s been happening to one woman for eight years.
Let’s start at the beginning and explain the term “catfish”.
A catfish is someone who pretends to be someone they’re not, often stealing photos and biographical information to create false social media accounts. It’s usually so they can trick an unsuspecting person into beginning a romantic relationship with them.
The term “catfish” is derived from the title of a 2010 documentary and has become a reality TV show on MTV.
Victims of catfishing are increasingly common, and there is nothing out of the ordinary about the people whose identities are stolen – essentially it can happen to anyone with a social media account.
This is what happened to Ellie Flynn, a freelance writer from London. She told Vice magazine, “You’ve seen Catfish. You know how alarming it would be to discover that your new cyber-girlfriend is actually a 42-year-old man living in his mum’s basement. But have you ever thought about how odd it must feel to own the face being used by that man? Probably not, no, because you have no reason to. But trust me, it’s equally distressing.
“Over the years, my friends and I have met a number of young men who’ve spent a substantial amount of time chatting to fake me—or fake versions of one of my friends—online. They often demand we show some form of ID to prove our surnames aren’t “Colarossi,” or “Rose,” or “Morrison,” and each time they’re left disappointed.
“One boy had been speaking to “Chia” every night on the phone for two months. He believed he was in love with her. I couldn’t help but feel for him—though I did find it odd his suspicions hadn’t been raised by the fact this cyber charlatan apparently had a family emergency to attend to literally every time they were due to meet.”