Several police departments are seeing a rise in dating app and internet purchase crimes, and authorities are warning app users to use caution when taking any online interaction offline.
“Sometimes the person you see in the picture is not exactly the same as you imagine,” said New Haven resident Giorgi Amendola.
Amendola said while he’s never had a problem meeting someone through dating apps, he knows what you see isn’t always what you get.
New Haven police are warning that criminals are also using those apps to search for victims.
“People are being duped into meeting people for seemingly legitimate reasons and then being robbed,” Officer David Hartman of the New Haven Police Department said.
New Haven police said this past month they’ve had about eight crimes connected to internet apps, and fear the number could be even higher because victims may be too embarrassed to call police.
A couple weeks ago, New Haven police said a victim had his car, wallet and phone stolen after pulling up to a residential address.
“He was instructed through the messaging portion of the app to walk up the driveway and she would be right down well she happened to be two guys with guns,” Hartman explained.
Many police departments have designated spots for people meeting up to complete a purchase. There are cameras that capture everything that takes place.
And police are pointing out other simple steps you can take to lessen your chances of becoming a victim.
If you are going offline, you should follow basic safety tips like meeting in a public place and bringing someone with you. In addition, police suggest meeting during the day instead of night, to save online information and related photos, to not carry large amounts of cash, and to leave valuables at home.
Specifically for dating apps, be responsible for your own ride, don’t get into a stranger’s car, stay sober, and download a personal safety app.
“If it doesn't feel right, it's not right,” Hartman said.
Police said in some of these cases victims were injured, but most aren’t seriously hurt.
They believe several of these crimes are being carried out by the same people.