Exactly a year ago, Anna Rowe was a mother-of-two living in Rough Common working as a teaching assistant in a primary school.
Her private life was just that – private. But her private life was unlike that of others – and she decided they ought to know about it.
For Anna, 45, was the victim of an online romance fraud known as a catfish scam.
She had been duped by a high-flying London lawyer who misrepresented himself on dating app Tinder to engage with her and then start a passionate 14-month relationship.
Anna, who had been looking for love, thought she had met the man of her dreams. He turned out to be married and still living with his wife but had nevertheless managed to weave a complex web of lies and deceptions.
She decided she had to warn others and launch a campaign to outlaw catfishing.
Speaking to the Canterbury Journal, Anna said: “I’ve had a lot of success in getting the message out there about these romance frauds.
“It’s really important to do so because the effect on people can be devastating. Only recently an 18-year-old boy who was catfished by two girls on Facebook killed himself.”
After Anna found out the truth of her lover’s identity, she wound up in counselling. Worse still, her decision to go public cost her the job at Ethelbert Road School in Faversham.
The man who deceived her had initially used an image of Bollywood actor Saif Ali Khan as his profile picture before sending real ones to her. He called himself by a fake name, Antony Ray.
But when he stopped coming to see her, Anna needed to know why. With the help of a friend she discovered the awful truth. She learned she was not Antony’s only victim and that he had a special phone for his romantic conquests.
“I felt emotionally manipulated, it’s just horrible,” the mother-of-two said.
“He took advantage of my trust and took away my right to choose. Had I known, I would never have consented to a sexual relationship with a married man, let alone a man who was actively having relations with multiple women simultaneously.
“His behaviour was premeditated, yet the current law will not find his actions a criminal offence. That’s why I’m calling for creating fake profiles for the intent to use people for sex to be a crime.”
Anna has since spoken to politicians and police officers and is receiving help from two law clinics in her campaign.
A petition she started has received 43,500 signatures and has prompted a government Green Paper into catfish scams.
Anna’s story has been told around the globe. She has made tv appearances including on This Morning and is often called upon as an expert consultant current affairs programmes on the radio.
She added: “It’s been totally worthwhile. I have had an astonishing year and even though it took time to build up momentum, I’m determined to keep pressing on with the campaign.”
Click here to access Anna’s website.