Catfishing and Identity Theft on Dating Apps

Published on 14 April 2021 at 13:37

For those of you who ever downloaded dating apps such as Tinder, Bumble, Fruits and so on, you might have stumbled upon profiles which were somewhat fishy.


It is one thing to use vague pictures, taken from afar or from peculiar angles, use filters. It is quite another to use the picture of someone else for people to identify you with it.


To give you an idea, using a picture of you with a friend, without asking for their consent, could already be reprehensible in such a context. That could infringe the right to one’s image under certain countries’ legislations. At the very least, it is just mean, where that is supposed to be misleading for other users of a dating application. 


Even more so, purposely stealing the identity of someone cannot be ignored. Then again there are different degrees to this. It goes from using someone’s picture to using their name or personal information, professional stance and family connections in order to defraud others, lure them into paying you money or even "ambush" them.


In the best scenario, one can simply be sued in copyrights because of the use of someone else’s picture without their approval. In a more serious scenario, a conviction for an identity theft crime can result in jail or prison.


Indeed, as Jeffrey Hayzlett points out in his article "Your Identity Could Be Used in Online Dating Scams. Here's How to Protect Yourself "using someone’s picture and attributing to it a different name is enough.


In France for instance, the Penal Code art 226-4-1 provides that usurping someone’s identity enabling to identify him or her in a way which might trouble the tranquility of a third party is punished by one year of imprisonment and a €15 000 fee.


A Comparative Study on Legislative and Non Legislative Measures to Combat Identity Theft and Identity Related Crime led at European level by Neil Robinson, Hans Graux, Davide Maria Parrilli, Lisa Klautzer And Lorenzo Valeri, distinguishes using a false identity online from unlawfully using another person’s credentials.


Rogues are sometimes highly sophisticated. Hacking can obviously help their cause, by providing them with in depth information about their new persona, but also, programming can perfect their scam.Some manage to create video images from pictures and engage in Skype calls with their victims. 


One can easily realise the catastrophic consequences of seeing one’s identity being assimilated to a catfish’s. The reputation of those whose identity is stolen is at stake. Even more so, where  "explicit" pictures are exchanged on dating websites and identified with them.


On a dating app, presenting yourself as someone you aren’t can amount to a "predator" behavior. Though, most of the time, identity- related crimes are rather motivated by an economic gain, allowing fraud.


Sometimes, that is only the tip of the iceberg. Identity thieves can be implicated in organised crime, cybercrime, money laundering or even terrorism. This can take huge proportions for the victims of identity theft who might end up being suspects in criminal investigations.


In any case, abuse of identity should be promptly reprimanded. Especially, on a platform that promotes social interaction. Luckily, service providers offer the opportunity to report scams on the apps themselves. Though, sometimes catfishes might be just too sophisticated for anyone to budge. 

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