Warning over homophobic ‘catfish’ attacks

Members of Cork’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transsexual (LGBT) community have been warned to take safety precautions when meeting online dates after reports of orchestrated attacks by assailants using websites and dating apps to attract their victims.

Warning over homophobic ‘catfish’ attacks

A Facebook warning about the attacks has been widely shared on the social media network. The post’s author, Louise O’Donnell, said that a friend had been attacked by a group of men having arranged a date through a website.

“Unfortunately, there is a group or groups of young people in Cork carrying out organised beatings against members of this community. Posing as young men and women on different sites including Tinder, Plenty of Fish and Grindr, they aim to get young gay and lesbians alone in secluded areas of the city to carry out vicious assaults,” the post read.

“I would really appreciate if you’d spread the message, look out for one another and stay safe! Never agree to meet someone late at night, in a secluded area or alone,” she said.

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Last night, Ms O’Donnell said her post was prompted by a friend who was confronted by a group of men when he arrived at a Cork city centre location for a date recently.

The practice of creating fake online identities for deceptive purposes is known as “catfishing”.

“When he got there four or five men hopped out of a van. Thankfully he managed to get away,” she said.

Ms O’Donnell said that someone who read the Facebook warning had since been in touch to tell her of a similar incident, also in Cork.

James Upton, auditor of UCC’s LGBT society, said that he was aware of a rise in physical and verbal homophobic attacks against the group’s members in the past six months.

He said he believes it is a backlash against the LGBT community as the upcoming Marriage Equality referendum approaches.

“We can’t tell our members not to go on these sites, but we would issue a word of caution about meeting people from them, that they could be catfished,” he warned.

A garda spokesperson urged any victims of assault to report the matter to gardaí.

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