A ‘catfishing’ fraudster who duped single men online by setting up fake profiles of women and asking for money in exchange for naked photographs has been jailed for five months.
Unemployed Robert Brown, 29, stole images from the internet to set up profiles on Badoo and Plenty of Fish under names like ‘Fran’, ‘Daisy Kirby’, ‘Linda’ and ‘Victoria Parrett’.
He then sent sexual messages to the men pretending to be women to entice them into sending him money via bank transfers for naked photos.
The court heard Brown had no idea whose pictures he was using, and simply stole them from the internet to maintain his cover.
He also tried to get his two victims to send him money to meet up for sex – then gloated after his identity was revealed.
District Judge Anthony Callaway, sentencing Brown at Portsmouth Magistrates’ Court, told him: ‘The people you targeted were vulnerable and significant sums of money were exchanged.’
During his fraud between January and February last year, Brown set up fake profiles on online dating websites posing as women.
One of his victims fell for the con four times as he sent money to what he believed was different women, ending up £1,860 out of pocket.
A second victim also inadvertently sent Brown money in exchange for photos, and lost £600. There were no other victims.
Catfishing – the deceitful practice of setting up fake online profiles to dupe victims into sexual contact – is not illegal in the UK.
However, MPs have been encouraged to pass new laws against the increasingly common phenomenon.
Had Brown not fraudulently asked his victims for money, and simply kept up his ruse as single women to encourage men to talk to him, he would not have been charged.
Nick Hoyle, prosecuting, said: ‘The victims were meeting him on the internet and exchanging messages.
‘The messages became sexualised. Using a female account, he was asking victims for money in the promise of meeting up for sex and sending photographs.’
Brown, from Portsmouth, would then send more photographs of naked women he found on the internet for £20 a time, pretending they were the woman he was posing as.
Lian Webster-Martin, for Brown, said her client didn’t expect his scam to work.
She said: ‘The incident snowballed. He didn’t expect to be successful in his requests. It was a tentative request and the defendant expected to be refused.
‘When money was forthcoming, greed overcame common sense and he found himself in a situation where it was an easy request to make, and the money was duly sent.’
Brown admitted six counts of fraud by false representation. He was ordered to pay no costs or compensation.