Utah lawmaker wants to crackdown on online ‘catfishing’

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Bill file introduced to discuss stronger legislation against dating app scam artists

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – A Utah lawmaker is exploring how to alert users of dating apps like Tinder and others if the person they’re interacting with maybe “catfishing” them.

“Catfishing” is when a person lures someone into a relationship using a false online persona and has been the subject of numerous books and TV shows.

Doreen Archambeault of Herriman was just getting back into the over 50 dating scene when she said she was “catfished.” A man with whom she’d been chatting online for five months, turned out to be someone else entirely.

“This guy- he just popped out at me…he had on a red sweater,” said Archambeault. “I was infatuated.”

“We chatted back and forth,” she said. Then, Archambeault said the man began to avoid answering personal questions. She said he planned an entire life with her and told her he loved her. But then, he started asking for money, playing on her grandmotherly sensibilities.

“His ‘granddaughter’ needed to get home from college for the summer…[he asked] could I please please pay for her plane fare to get home,” said Archambeault, who did wire the money. But when the user asked for more money, she began to question if this person was who he said he was.

After she reported him to the app, she found out the “man” she had been talking to was actually two men who lived in Europe. She was devastated because she had developed feelings for him and was embarrassed about having been duped.

“I really thought he was an actual person,” said Archambeault.

Experts say “catfishing” is a common scam to which dating app users young and old fall victim. Rep. Angela Romero (D) – Salt Lake City says she has introduced a bill file to be discussed in the interim legislative session that aims to crack down on “catfishing.”

Right now the legal parameters about how far the state can go to prosecute “catfishing” are unclear, but Romero said she would like to at least get dating apps to more effectively alert users of possible scam artists.

“I’ve even had a colleague tell me that somebody tried to catfish her for money…so this happens to everyone,” said Romero.

Archambeault knows better now; since she was scammed, at least two other online “catfish” has tried to rip her off, and she isn’t buying it.

“I told them ‘I have been scammed and I know the red flags…and you have several.’ I never heard from them again.”

Experts said if anyone online tries to ask you for money, it’s likely a scam, even if you have built a relationship of trust with them. Romero told ABC4 News Match.com is interested in exploring the legislation with her.

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