They say there have been at least 10 separate incidents throughout the city where male victims have set up dates with a female through a variety of social forums, only to have the encounters go horribly wrong.
"No specific age group. It's mainly males looking for females in a dating situation," said Sgt. Bryce Heinline.
Police say two of the incidents just happened Thursday in the Land Park area, when unsuspecting men met who they thought was going to be a woman for a date, but instead had at least two male co-conspirators approach them armed with guns and rob them. In some of the other incidents the victims have also been physically assaulted.
"We have been able to link several of the cases together based on just the motive and the descriptions of the suspects that have been involved in these," Heinline explained.
The excitement of meeting and connecting with someone new is something most of us can relate to. But with all the possibilities of a romantic relationship starting to take shape, so too is the very reality that these men can also be putting themselves in harm's way.
"I feel badly for these guys; they're excited, they want to go out and meet someone," said FOX40 relationship expert Joey Garcia. "Sometimes that excitement overrides our common sense. We forget to get information, sometimes we give too much information. I've seen online, men will give their phone number in the first exchange."
Garcia noted that men, more so than women, are more willing to share personal information online and that makes them easy targets for this type of crime.
"Men need to ask more questions online before they set up a meet," Garcia said.
In the reality of the online world, someone can pretend to be anybody pretty easily. Since it's impossible to know exactly who they are, it's important to protect yourself at any cost. Which means looking into the background of the person you are interested in through online searches, and even going as far as setting up the meet in a public, group setting first.
But just because the online connection may occur using a more reputable dating site, doesn't guarantee the person on the other end is really who they say they are.
"If someone intends harm, they may more likely use a site that we might trust more because there are more filters," Garcia warned. "And, as a result of that, boy, a lot of scary things can happen."
And the reality is, online dating sites aren't held responsible for what happens when two people decide to meet in person. They encourage their users to be responsible with sharing personal information, but beyond that, aren't held to any more accountability.