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Wednesday, April 17, 2024

A Stark Reality: Nearly One-Quarter of Britons Tricked by Catfishing, Leading to Emotional and Financial Hardships”

In a concerning revelation, 22% of British residents have been victims of catfishing at some point, with a significant 31% encountering their deceivers in real life, leading to startling revelations about their true identities. These insights come from a recent national survey by ExpressVPN, a leader in consumer privacy and security.

Conducted among 2,000 UK residents aged 18 to 50, the survey uncovers the darker aspects of social media and online dating, including catfishing, AI manipulation, and concerns over revenge porn. The findings show an increased awareness of catfishing as a personal threat for nearly half (49%) of Brits in the past year, making it one of the top concerns in online dating (56%), second only to the fear of meeting dangerous individuals (62%). Other worries in the realm of online dating include harassment (39%), receiving unsolicited explicit images (30%), and the leakage of personal data (26%). A majority of current online daters in the UK have reported being catfished at least once (54%).

Following a spike in romance scams on social media, the Home Affairs Committee has initiated a new fraud investigation. The survey by ExpressVPN indicates that young adults, particularly those between 18 and 24 years old, are the most vulnerable to catfishing, with 34% affected. This is followed by 27% of those aged 25-34, 18% of 35-44 year-olds, and 7% of 45-50 year-olds. Additionally, the survey found that men are more likely than women to be catfished, with rates at 24% and 20%, respectively.

The most reported platforms for catfishing incidents include:

  • Facebook: 35%
  • Tinder: 31%
  • Snapchat: 26%
  • Instagram: 25%
  • WhatsApp: 16%
  • TikTok: 14%
  • Bumble: 12%
  • Hinge: 8%
  • X: 8%
  • Reddit: 3%

Although 37% of catfishing victims identified the deception before meeting in person, about a third (31%) discovered the truth during an in-person meeting. Shockingly, a quarter of the victims had been in contact with their catfish for more than a year before realisation, and 14% found out the perpetrator was someone they already knew. Distressingly, over one in ten (12%) victims suffered financial losses or were scammed for gifts.

The emotional impact of catfishing is significant, with victims experiencing anxiety and depression. Among those catfished, 39% felt embarrassed and regretful, 36% were emotionally shattered, 27% lost interest in pursuing relationships, and 17% suffered mental health issues such as anxiety or depression. Additionally, 16% were hesitant to share their experience with family or friends. As a result, nearly a third (28%) of Britons are now averse to using social media and dating apps for finding partners.

Interestingly, Britons’ own online behaviors contribute to security concerns. Around 43% admit to having sent nude photos, with 15% worried about potential blackmail, 13% concerned about unauthorised circulation, 15% apprehensive about family discovery, and 10% fearful of the images reaching their employers. This aligns with reports of a 31% increase in calls and online reports to the UK’s Revenge Porn Helpline in 2023, totalling 10,000.

Furthermore, 34% of Britons confess to creating fake profiles or impersonating others on social and dating platforms. The primary motivations include enhancing their dating life (10%), spying on partners (9%), or keeping tabs on ex-partners (8%). Over a quarter (28%) also admit to using AI for enhancing their dating or social media profiles, with improvements focusing on photos (15%), biographies (14%), and chat-up lines (12%).

Lauren Hendry Parsons, Privacy Advocate at ExpressVPN, comments:

“With the emergence of social media and dating apps came the catfishers—scammers who create a fake persona, complete with attractive photos, to form relationships with strangers predicated on lies. We live so much of our lives online now that it’s not unusual for our first connection with someone to be virtual, including with potential employers, colleagues, bank and retail support staff. There is therefore an element of trust we as individuals have when talking to someone online—a lot more so than a decade ago.

“But sadly there are many bad actors out there preying on this trust, often for financial gain. The growing sophistication of AI and ease of generating false identities has threatened that trust even more. If you suspect you’re getting catfished, report the person to the dating app or social media platform and indicate precisely why you think they’re a possible catfish. There are also several additional security measures you can take when online. For example, using a high-quality VPN can add an extra layer of security to your online interactions. By masking your IP address, a VPN helps protect your location and identity, helping your online activities remain private and secure.”

For more information, visit: https://www.expressvpn.com/

Sam Allcock
Sam Allcockhttps://businesslancashire.co.uk/
Sam Allcock is a highly regarded digital entrepreneur with over 20 years’ experience in online marketing for some of the World’s biggest brands. He has extensive knowledge and experience in SEO and digital marketing. He is based in Cheshire but has an interest in all things going on in the North West and enjoys contributing local news to the site.
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