When dating online leads to catastrophic connections - FOX 13 News

When dating online leads to catastrophic connections

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TAMPA (FOX 13) -

Tens of millions Americans are looking for love on the internet.

And while an online romance can blossom into a successful marriage, it can also have dangerous consequences.

A man in California was arrested this week and charged with raping a woman he met on a Christian dating site.

And another woman is suing Match.com after her date tried to murder her.

Online dating has never been so popular, in no small part because of the smart phone.

Dating apps don't just connect you these days, they tell you exactly how far away your match is.

It can ignite a spark or lead you straight to the wrong person.

Dawn Drake has clicked around a few dating websites.

"Match.com didn't quite work out for me. eHarmony worked a little bit better. Meetup, which isn't a dating site, I've actually met a lot of people through that," Drake said,

So many sites, so many fish in the sea -- but trying to find the right catch can reel in big trouble.

"I know a guy who had a rufi slipped in his drink and got robbed. Anything can happen. You can make a false profile to lure people in," Drake said.

Brian Wedgeworth, known as "The Casanova Scammer," was arrested in Georgia for defrauding more than 60 victims nationwide. One victim in Tampa suspected something was wrong when the name he gave her got no results on Google.

"My advice is, don't even do the online dating at all. Get an ID card, do a background check and if you can't pull somebody up, just leave it alone," the victim said in a telephone interview, not wanting us to use her name or show her face.

According to Harmony US dating coach Jason Denis, online dating can be safe if you're careful.

"The basic info they should get is a Facebook address, because a lot of people put their personal information," he said.

There are horror stories, like the rape reported from a match made off of Christiansingles.com.

"You're meeting a stranger for the first time, so it's important to leave a trail, plan an exit strategy that is polite," Denis said.

Dawn Drake has another piece of advice.

"We actually have a house rule, if you meet someone online after you have chatted for a while, it's in a public place and my roommate or my sister or somebody I know is always there somewhere else to kind of watch," she said.

Despite the warnings, digital devices can trigger true love -- or at least true like.

"I think if you go in with the attitude of, I just want to meet people, I think it can be very successful," she said.

And remember that the crimes that make headlines and scare people away from dating sites are the exceptions, and not the norm.

What online daters say is much more likely to happen is that you may meet someone who doesn't look quite as appealing in life as in the pictures.

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