A Clitheroe woman who appeared on national TV in a bid to highlight her campaign to stop innocent people’s identities being stolen online has received backing from MP Ann Coffey.
Rebecca Jane, of The Lady Detective Agency, appeared on the popular ITV daytime show Loose Women to launch the Killing Catfish campaign, in conjunction with TV personality Kym Marsh, of Coronation Street fame, and model Matt Peacock.
Catfishing is the practice of assuming someone else’s online identity, either for malicious purposes, or to pursue deceptive online romances.
The Lady Detective Agency was founded in 2009. Since then, their mission has been to catch catfish, after the practice rocketed with the rapid rise in popularity of social media.
According to Rebecca, catfishing has now reached epidemic proportions. She said: “The goal of the campaign is to change the current UK law, making the process of catfishing illegal. Since 2013 there has been a 42% rise in online dating scams where a catfish tries to extort money from their victim.
“A client of the agency, Matt Peacock, asked for our help in October 2016. Matt had his identity stolen for three years by a catfish. A man pretended to be Matt in order to gain illicit photographs and videos from his victims and would turn up to dates that he arranged with the women. When Matt didn’t show, he claimed to be his cousin and have dinner with the victims.”
She continued: “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 bear thinking about.”