Scammers are everywhere; including online dating websites.
“They`re very savvy, well versed to hook you into believing that there is some type of relationship there when there are different motives,” Sacramento County Sheriff’s Detective Sean Smith said. He specializes in online crime.
Smith doesn’t discourage online dating, but warns every user should be vigilant.
“People become complacent about (safety) especially if you’ve been talking to (someone) for a period of time. You feel like you really get to know somebody,” Smith said.
That’s what happened to Colorado resident Ann Stevens, who met a man online who claimed to be building roads in Africa. He wrote multiple romantic messages.
“I didn`t want to think it was a scam, I wanted to believe he was telling me the truth,” she said.
Eventually the man asked her for $1,800.
“I was swept up in the sweetness and the words. I didn’t see the red flags,” said Stevens.
An even worse story is what happened to Carole Markin in Los Angeles. She sued Match.com after a man she met on the site, Alan Wurtzel, sexually assaulted her.
Turns out Wurtzel had been previously convicted of sexual battery. Markin dropped the lawsuit when Match.com showed it would start screening members for sex offenders.
Other online dating sites do the same.
“We have a whole department here at eHarmony called Trust and Safety,” said Grant Langston the VP, of customer experience, “They are tasked with making sure we fight fraud. Do investigations to make sure they are who they say they are.”
At Christian Mingle, spokesperson Ashley Reccord said they ask all members to sign a statement saying they will not ask for nor give money to other members.
CEO of ZOOSK Shayan Zadeh said at his company a human being goes and reviews every single profile.
“If somebody`s not fit to be on our community; we have a zero-tolerance policy and we remove them from the community,” he added.
Along with the companies, it`s also up to the users to be careful. “We do a lot of education with our customers; like what are the safe ways of dating anybody,” said Zadeh, “If anything doesn`t feel right immediately abort.”
Before we start picking on dating websites too much it`s also good to point out questionable people can be found everywhere.
“You have creepers in bars too. There are creepers everywhere,” said Match.com relationship expert Whitney Casey, “Take precautionary measures. (Have the) first date at a place where people know you and you meet there. No one picks you up.”
While running a background check is smart, but could create a false sense of security. “The fact that someone does not show up in a background check as having some past misdeed doesn`t really tell you anything,” said Langston, “A lot of parts of the country, and counties that don`t report their information.”
Also, some questionable people may not have done anything yet. James Holmes, the accused gunman in the Aurora, CO movie theater shooting, had online dating profiles and no prior criminal history.
All of this can sound pretty terrifying, but as long as you are careful online dating is safe. According to recent research it`s also how a third of all relationships are starting.