Sexual Predators Increasingly Finding Victims Through Social Media

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A growing number of predators are using social media and dating apps such as Tinder, Kik, PlentyOfFish, MocoSpace and MeetMe to prey on unsuspecting women, police tell the Dallas Morning News. One such suspect has been charged in connection with four 2014 rapes in Dallas. Many people are turning to social media to find love — 1 in 3 newly married couples met online, says one study. Criminals are exploiting that willingness to meet up, lying about their appearance and identity. “It’s our human nature to want to trust people,” said Dallas police Lt. Israel Herrera. “We’re starting to see a lot of these, and we didn’t see a lot before.” Dallas police haven’t tracked how many of the 782 rapes in 2015 started with an online introduction. Commanders want to count them this year. At least seven men in Dallas were arrested in recent years on these types of cases.

For most rapes, the suspect is known to the victim, Assistant Chief Randy Blankenbaker said. The rarest type of rape is among strangers: About 1 in 14 rapes reported in the city last year were among strangers. Online, women sometimes let their guard down, police say, because they may feel like they know the man better than they do after reading his profile and messaging with him. “With the increased use of dating apps, it makes the victim believe they know who they’re going out with,” Blankenbaker said. “It gives the victim a false sense of security. We’ve seen a lot of that.” Police have noticed a pattern. The man starts out “very innocent and flirtatious,” Herrera said, including being complimentary of the woman. When the woman meets the man, he suddenly pulls a weapon or pushes her down.

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