Woman catfished by cousin for 10 years after being duped into relationship

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A woman was catfished by her cousin for more than 10 years after she was tricked into entering into a long-distance relationship with the female relative.

Kirat Assi, 42, a former radio DJ from London, has called for the government to make it a criminal offence.

She has been retelling her account of how a man purporting to be called 'Bobby' began talking to her in 2009 via Facebook.

Kirat detailed to the Sunday Times how this man she “vaguely” knew from the Sikh community wasn't actually the real 'Bobby' – it was, in fact, her younger cousin Simran Bhogal.

She also claimed that Bhogal had actually been advising Kirat in real life by attempting to help her with her online relationship.

Bhogal even went as far as making 50 other fake online profiles, in order to create stories and lives that never existed.

And she even killed 'Bobby' off, at one stage, with him only re-emerging in “witness protection”.

Although she never met 'Bobby', who she believed lived in Australia, the saga ended after Kirat hired a private investigator to uncover the bizarre and chilling truth.

She brought a civil action against Bhogal which was settled out of court.

Kirat is calling for catfishing, where people are lured into relationships through fictional identities, to be deemed a criminal offence.

She said: “I think it might serve as a deterrent for a lot of people to know that if you're caught then immediately it's a crime, just like driving with a mobile in your hand.

“It would be an immediate deterrent, so many people will still do it but some people will think, 'I'm just not risking it.'

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“I call it online entrapment – I wasn't on a dating site, I'm private online.

“The connotations associated with the term catfishing are that it's fun.

“This impacted my health, my family, friends, social life, my radio work, my career, absolutely everything.”

While the act of catfishing is not yet illegal, the Internet Law Centre said that social media impersonation could result in a “civil law offence”.

A spokesman said: “Only if the illegal impersonation continues after the impersonator was presented with an injunction, or if the illegal impersonation amounts to harassment, can the court send the impersonator to prison.

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“Impersonation on social media can result in legal action against the impersonator for breach of privacy, misuse of private information, harassment and defamation.”

Kirat's story is retold in a six-part podcast called Sweet Bobby.

The Daily Star has contacted the government's Department for Culture, Media and Sport to see whether it is looking at making catfishing illegal.

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