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Do you live in the ‘catfish’ capital of the UK? New research reveals UK hotspots for fake online personas

  • Almost half of Londoners admit to catfishing online (44%)
  • New research reveals why Brits are turning to using false personas
  • A reformed catfish offers his top tips on how to spot a fraudster online


New research confirms that things aren’t always as they seem online, with almost one in three (29%) Brits admitting to having a fictional persona online, otherwise known as ‘catfishing’.

But where are the catfishing hotspots in the UK? Mobile phone insurer, Insurance2go, polled the nation to find out how many people have experienced this online deception and gathered insight from a former catfish to find out some of the reasons behind the hoax.

The top five UK catfish hotspots are:

  • London (44%)
  • Oxford, Glasgow (37% each)
  • Norwich (32%)
  • Coventry (30%)
  • Belfast, Sheffield (23% each)

The research also revealed some of the reasons Londoners’ are hiding behind false identities online; making new friends came out on top (33%), followed by dissatisfaction with their appearance (31%) and for a sense of escapism (28%). More than one in five also admitted that they catfish to find romance (22%).

Of the Londoners that admitted to catfishing, the most common methods included editing photos on social media to change their appearance (23%), creating a social media profile using someone else’s image (15%), and starting  a romantic relationship with someone online using someone else’s image (14%).

A shocking 25% of those polled admitted they have experienced some form of catfishing online; from starting a relationship with a person that pretended to be someone they weren’t on the web (9%), to sending money to someone who turned out not to be the person they claimed to be (8%).

Interestingly, the top five destinations for victims of catfishing slightly differ from the locations of the actual offenders:

  1. London (37%)
  1. Oxford (33%)
  1. York (31%)
  1. Belfast (27%)
  1. Birmingham, Glasgow (25% each)

To gain further insight into the reasons behind this deceptive behaviour, Insurance2go spoke to a ’20-year-old’, who previously used an online chat group discussing video games to catfish people. He commented: “I chose a picture of some random girl that I found online. If no one can verify your identity online, why not just make one up as you like? The reason why I chose to ‘be’ a girl was that girls are a rare sight when it comes to video games, so I knew that I would get a lot of attention.

“I think the main reason why I (and others) catfish, is boredom. I’ve never had many friends and spent most days alone in my room. The Internet gives you so many opportunities to have social interactions and the fact that you’re anonymous means that you can create your own identity instead of using your real, boring one.”

The former catfish also offered tips on how to spot and stop fraudsters in their tracks, he commented: “The safest way to find out if someone is catfishing you is to just ask them for a picture with their face whilst holding up some fingers, or a note with their name.”

“Another quick way to tell if someone is catfishing you, is to do a reverse image search with their pictures, although this only works if they took the pics from a public website. If they look like a model and the picture is super HD with perfect lightning, it’s highly likely that it is not them. Even when someone is super charming and likeable, you shouldn’t lose your common sense. The most important thing is to constantly remind yourself that people do catfish a lot, it’s the internet after all. If you have a weird feeling and suspect someone of catfishing, you have to find out at one point or another and confront them.”

Commenting on the findings, Lorraine Hingham, Managing Director at Insurance2go, said: “It’s concerning to see how many people in the UK have admitted to using false identities online, whatever their motivation may be. It’s important to remember that the internet is somewhere to behave cautiously in terms of sharing your personal information and interacting with people you do not know or potentially do not trust. With the ever-growing number of websites and online forums, it seems that ‘catfishing’ and online fraud is only going to increase, so we would advise people to be vigilant and ensure they know exactly who they’re talking to, that they do not share any of their personal information and only use secure websites and forums they trust.”

For more information on Brits’ catfishing habits, head to the blog here:

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