A University of Kansas student had a horrifying encounter with a man whom she met on Tinder in April. The 22 year-old student was picked up by 30 year-old, Shane Steven Allen, from her sorority house for a date after the two matched on Tinder. Allen allegedly held the student captive for a six-day period and beat her repeatedly. The report states that the victim and Allen had seen each other once before and nothing had gone wrong in this initial meeting.
Though these terrifying events are usually isolated, they sadly seem to be happening more and more frequently. In fact, there have been a number of robberies and sexual assaults since the beginning of 2016 where the initial conversation started on an online dating site or app.
In addition to physical crime there is also the potential for financial losses due to romance scams. Criminals will create fake profiles in order to solicit personal and financial information from their victim. In 2014, romance scams stole $86 million according to the FBI's Internet Crime Report.
Unfortunately, dating app crime, whether it's physical or financial, seems to be on the rise throughout the U.S.
There may be a scientific explanation for this: People are much more likely to share personal things when talking with someone online that they haven't met before. Psychologists have found that people often reveal their "true self" when engaging with another person online, more so than they do in person. This openness can lead a person to trust a stranger much more easily and develop intense feelings more quickly.
When using online dating and dating apps it's important to remember that the major draw of these sites and apps is also the one thing you should keep in mind at all times: the person you're meeting is a stranger. Occasionally you might find that you have some mutual friends in common, but for the most part, you've never met the person you're talking to before. For this reason it's always smart to proceed with caution for the first few times you meet.
Tinder and many other dating sites and apps provide safety tips for when you make a match and decide to meet in person. The most important tips to follow are these:
- Always meet and stay in a public place for your first few dates. You may feel that after talking to someone online you know them, but this doesn't mean you should trust them.
- Drive yourself, take public transportation, a taxi or ride-share service to your first date. Don't have your date pick you up and see where you live.
- Let a friend or family member know who you will be with and where you are going. Check in with them after the date to let them know how it was.
- Know your limits and keep an eye on your drink. If you decide to drink on your date keep it to a 1 or 2 drink limit.
- Keep your personal items, like your purse and cellphone near you at all times.
- If you feel uncomfortable or unsafe, excuse yourself and leave immediately.
Be smart when you're meeting someone for the first time, especially someone whom you met via a dating app. With just a few clicks of the mouse, you can become someone else online - and sometimes people do so for malicious reasons!