A SCHOOL has issued a warning to pupils after reports that a man claiming to be from Stroud has been ‘catfishing’ female students.

He is said to be targeting Key Stage 4 pupils at Severn Vale School in Quedgeley, using social media sites such as Instagram and Snapchat to interact with them under a false name with false details, claiming that he is aged 15 and 16.

The school issued the following statement to the media: "At Severn Vale School the Safeguarding of our students is paramount and the school works closely with the Police and other agencies to build, develop and promote the safety of its young people.

"We have recently made parents and students aware of concerns we have over an unknown male reportedly ‘catfishing’ several of our female students.

"The students involved conducted themselves with great integrity, reporting their concerns to the school, which in turn allowed us to pass this information to the police.

"In our experience the enlisting of student and parental vigilance in these kind of circumstances is invaluable in promoting student well-being and safety especially as ‘catfishing’ type incidents we have found are rarely linked to a single school.

"We have advised parents and carers on what appropriate action to take, in line with guidance provided by the police, should they believe their child is affected by an incident such as this.

"Severn Vale School would like to thank all its parents and carers for their continued support in safeguarding our students."

In a statement released, Cyber Protect Officer for Gloucestershire police, Victoria Brinton said: "While catfishing can affect anyone of any age, it can be very worrying when young people are targeted.

"It is important that parents have a conversation with their children about staying safe online, including explaining to them that not everyone on the internet is who they say they are and the risks of accepting friend requests or messages from people they don’t know in real life.

"It is also important that children know they can turn to their parents or school staff should they experience anything online that causes them concern or harm.

"Having high privacy settings can prevent people from being targeted and approached by catfishers."

If you suspect someone of catfishing, report their account to the social media platform you are using and report it to the police if you believe any fraudulent, illegal or inappropriate activity has taken place.

For more information, visit nationalonlinesafety.com/resources