The video we released this week starring the Little Casanova has now been viewed an incredible 10 million times. You can watch the video here.
People are unfortunately affected by identity fraud and scams everyday and the stats show that the numbers are rising. We created Yoti to help people prove who they are and know who they’re dealing with online and in person, for free. Whether on a dating site or a buying/selling community - we provide a fast, simple and secure way to swap verified personal details with the people you meet using your phone.
While this video is light hearted, it has a serious message at it’s core and was captured in a controlled environment. It’s intended to warn and raise awareness of how easy it is to create fake online profiles and mislead people into situations that cost time, money and personal inconvenience. Put simply, the current identity system is broken and we created Yoti to help fix it, together with our community of users and organisations.
Yoti is committed to making the internet a safer place for everyone and already working with a range of official bodies that promote internet safety including CIFAS and charities including the NSPCC. We’re also working with safer dating ambassador, Anna Rowe to help others avoid catfishing traps. You can read more about it here.
If you’d like to read more about our technology please go to www.yoti.com - you can also read our mission at https://thefightback.co.uk/
We caught up with the star of our film - little Casanova himself - to find out what he made of it all.
Q - Hi Lewis, tell us a little about yourself and how you ended up starring in this role?
A - Hi, I’m Lewis and I’m 14 years old. I’m interested in wildlife, the countryside and anything outdoors. My main interest is breeding and racing pigeons.
I was asked by my agent to go to a casting in London. When I got there I met Matt and Ruth. They explained what they were planning to shoot and told me a little about Yoti. They were really nice and I felt very enthusiastic about the role.
Q - The video is lighthearted but intended to help people understand a serious issue, as well as Yoti’s solution, to help others avoid similar situations. What did you learn from the experience?
A – It shows how people can pretend to be someone they are not. It is really easy to mislead people. I think people just want to believe you.
Q - How easy was it to set up and dupe these people into thinking they were meeting someone else? Do you think more should be done to protect people of all ages online?
A – As long as you have the information of someone eligible to register on a dating site it’s very easy. You just need a picture to post and you can fill in the rest of the details.
Q - You meet women much older than you in the video - how did you find that? And how did you think they found it? What advice would you give to people meeting strangers online?
A – It was fun tricking them, but I found it hard to keep a straight face at first. I think they were shocked and a bit embarrassed that someone as young as me had been able to set up a date with them. They were all really nice so that made it easy. It just shows how careful you have to be making sure that people are genuine before you meet them.
Q - You kept very calm and made us all laugh - how much were the situations and conversations rehearsed vs. made up on the spot?
A – It was all on the spot. Nothing was rehearsed but I did have an earpiece so I was given some suggestions of what to say. As the conversation went on I made up some of my own things which was really funny. I think I got a bit too chatty with one of the girls because I remember being asked to wrap it up.
Q - You’ve clearly got a bright acting future ahead of you, where else can we see you perform?
A – I took some time out because I wanted to establish my Racing Stock Birds. I’ve also been involved in a documentary about me and my relationship with other pigeon fanciers. I have a lot of friends all over the country that are all older than me so I find it easy to talk to adults. I’ve just re-joined my agency a few months ago so hopefully I will be filming again soon. Ideally I would like to do some form of presenting, but doing this prank takes some beating. I hope it’s a great success!
We also spoke to safer dating ambassador Anna Rowe on this issue of fake online profiles.
Q - Hi Anna, please introduce yourself
A - Hi I’m Anna and I’m a single mum with 2 sons.
Q - The kid Casanova video is lighthearted - but intended to help people understand a serious issue. What experience can you share to help others watching the video?
A - I was conned by a man pretending to be someone he wasn’t on a dating website. It’s known as ‘Catfishing’. He was grooming lots of women all the time, to build trust in him so he could have a relationship with us. He didn’t mean anything he said to do this, he just enjoyed the power and control he had over us to get what he wanted, this included a sexual relationship. I was lucky and managed to track down who he really was but many people who have had an experience like me never know who it was that abused them and their trust.
Q - It was too easy to set up and dupe these individuals into thinking they were meeting someone else. Do you think more should be done to protect people of all ages online?
A - It is far too easy to set up a fake profile. There is NO real verification of profiles on any dating websites or apps. I’ve tested them out. The ones you expect to be able to trust and pay money for are no different to the others. No regulation of this industry means no responsibility for the companies that own them. Ultimately they are businesses and only want to make money.
Much more needs to be done to deter your everyday ‘Catfish' from using these platforms for personal gain. It is an adult version of the grooming behaviour paedophiles exhibit online. Verification of profiles can only make our lives online easier and safer. Technology will only keep moving forward so we need to ensure everyone’s safety. I’m working on it! Legislation stops protecting people from ‘grooming’ from the age of 16.
Q - This is an exaggerated situation but one that happens too often and easily. You’re working hard to protect people from catfishing - what can we do to help and support your fight?
A - So many people are still completely unaware of this behaviour. I had never come across (to my knowledge) a fake profile, let alone a Catfish before this happened to me and I am absolutely one of those people who would openly say… 'that would never happen to me'. But the truth is, these individuals are very clever and they have very sophisticated psychological skills to be able to manipulate people emotionally. People on dating platforms are all vulnerable to a degree because they are opening up their hearts to meet someone new. Catfish exploit that vulnerability.
Knowledge is powerful so the more we can spread the word about this the better. My website can offer advice and give understanding of how these people work, which will in turn will keep people safe as they will start to recognise the signs to watch out for.
If people start to use verification like Yoti as an everyday proof of identity, it will be easier to be confident that the person you are talking to online is who they say they are. Personally, I want to see this type of verification as part of every platforms sign up process. It should be part of corporate responsibility for the industry to safeguard users. No one is saying that everyone’s ‘real personal details’ need to be on display for the world to see but the person behind the profile should be verified as who they really are. Using a ‘Live Photo’ as part of that sign up process would also remove the chances of meeting up with someone who looks 10 years older than their picture.
Q - What do you think of Yoti as a solution to help people know who they’re meeting?
A - Yoti has made personal verification very simple and easy. It took me no more than 5 minutes from start to finish to set my account up. It has really far reaching possibilities and uses in our everyday lives. Their launch event really showcased the diversity of the app and it’s purpose. As far as meeting strangers in our everyday lives, it’s never going to stop, so having that reassurance that the other person is ‘real’ and also the deterrent it will be to those who are less than honest, can only be a benefit.
Q - What other advice would you give to people meeting strangers online?
A - My first bit of advice is to run a reverse image search on the photo used. If they are not found there is a better chance the person is ‘real’ and these are their photos but it’s not a given.
Keep communication on the platform until you have met, then if something is wrong you can report the profile. Catfish want you to talk elsewhere for more than one reason. Firstly, software can pick up on certain trends in conversation and second, they don’t want you to see that they are still online interacting with others.
If they seem too good to be true they likely are. If they seem to progress things very quickly and say you are their soulmate within a few weeks, or they seem to know a lot about you, you are being groomed. They have been asking questions or looking at your social media to give them information so it seems like they know you / they are like you.
My Huffington Post article gives many many more ‘Red Flags’ to look out for and there is lots of advice on my website.