Over the last several weeks, there has been a tremendous spike in dating app crimes in and around the Houston area. Just this week alone, a suspect, Jorge Mar, 24, was formally charged on Thursday with as many as eight sexual assaults in our area. And with the explosion of online dating over the past ten years, trust has been a criminal’s best friend.
Online dating is the new wave in terms of finding that special someone. Many of us (not me, lol) have had bad experiences in online dating or just flat-out no luck going the traditional route. Getting dolled or dressed up to hit the streets for a night out on the town, hoping to find that Mr. or Mrs. Right, used to be the way to go. But with the advancement of technology, not only can you “date” online, but there are now mobile apps from these dating services, putting your prospective matches right at your fingertips. No need to refresh or leave the house for that matter. Create a profile, upload your best selfies, and you’re in business.
Here’s where things get interesting. These dating apps allow YOU, the consumer, to set up the parameters on your account, as you see fit. You can add alerts from prospective dates, get instant messages from other members, and scroll and filter your likes and dislikes to your heart’s content. Sounds like the perfect way to find true love in one easy and convenient way. Wrong. Criminals have found a way to take full advantage of one common theme that all of these apps require: Trust.
In the case of Mar, he would allegedly setup dating profiles, with the intent of taking advantage of unsuspecting victims. Once he made a connection with a “date,” he would meet them at their location. Once the suspect was able to convince the victim to get into his vehicle, he would drive to a remote or secluded area where he would produce a weapon and then sexually assault them. Mar would gain the victim’s “trust.” Then take full advantage of it.
And there’s more examples of criminal activity than just Jorge Mar. Over the last several weeks, there have been upwards of seven robberies on unsuspecting victims who also were members of the dating app “Jack’d.” The same common theme is in play here: The suspects set up a dating profile with the direct intent of robbing unsuspecting daters. Once they make a connection, a place to meet is agreed upon. Once there, several armed males, lying in wait, ambush the vehicle and rob the victim.
There are a number of ways to protect yourself from becoming a victim of crime from online dating. One common theme I’ve come across time and time again is that the victim simply puts too much personal information on their dating profile. Last names and phone numbers are NEVER a good idea to make public on these sites.
Another issue is “geography” settings (i.e. where you live) are set to default to “ON,” showing the world your current location on a map. If you’re at home….you could possibly be sharing your home address with these criminals without even knowing it. Switch this option to “OFF!”
And lastly, use plain old common sense. Most of us know when something smells fishy or doesn’t add up right. Don’t be too trusting of anyone you meet through these sites. Remember, you DON’T know them! Use your best judgement and don’t hesitate to say “no” if at anytime you feel uncomfortable. Happy dating!