Hidden Dangers Lurking Online - Part 1
This is Part 1 of a two-part article. Read Part 2 here.
Due to its anonymity, many people use the Internet to form romantic relationships despite hidden dangers lurking online. They can usually hide behind a generic username to weed out the people that they don’t want to connect with, while making connections with people they do want to meet. Single people try online dating, married people look for an extramarital hookup, and escorts use the web to create anonymous transactions with their Johns. However, some of these encounters have tragic results.
After arranging to meet on July 18, 2015, an Oregon man, Neal Falls, allegedly tried to kill a female escort. The woman was able to fight Falls off, gain control of his handgun, and shoot him. He died at the scene.
When police arrived, they noted that the escort had strangulation marks and other signs of injuries. Police found evidence in Fall’s vehicle that pointed to a history of attacks, including axes, a shovel, knives, handcuffs, bleach, and other suspicious items. Falls also had a list with the names of ten other women in his pocket, including one who resides in San Diego, California. All of the women are believed to be escorts who are active online, and all were potential murder victims.
Although authorities have not officially linked Falls to the murder of other escorts, his name has been linked to traffic stops, investigations, and interviews in 20 states. Numerous law enforcement agencies suspect that he may have been involved in a series of killings, including cases involving women who went missing and were later found dismembered by the side of the road. It is not yet known how many victims there may be.
Just a few years earlier, media reports flooded the airwaves regarding the Craigslist killer, who allegedly lured female escorts through the popular advertisement site and robbed them. One escort was killed. While Craigslist and other sites may provide a medium for escorts to make contacts with potential clients, the risks are sometimes fatal, as these cases show. Additionally, many Johns are robbed or killed after responding to such ads.
Psych Central reports that dating site villains usually fall into two categories: sexual predators and financial scammers. The latter group consists of individuals who try to win the trust of the people with whom they communicate. Once they accomplish this, they start to ask for gifts or money.
Romantic connections that are made online sometimes deteriorate. Escorts or other romantic partners may attempt to blackmail the partner due to his or her celebrity or marital status, threatening to expose an encounter or affair if the partner does not shell out a substantial amount of money.
Ways to Protect Yourself Online
There are several ways that you can protect yourself if you decide to pursue relationships online. Follow these steps to minimize risks:
- Get a background check. A private investigator can conduct a complete background check on a person before you meet him or her. A criminal background check can reveal if the potential partner has been convicted of sexual crimes, assault, fraud, or other charges that raise a red flag and may put your life in jeopardy. A professional from Linked Investigations can explain the comprehensive background checks that we provide.
- Use blind email. If a dating site offers ‘blind email’, in which the recipient of your communications does not see your email address, it would be wise to use this service. Otherwise, set up a generic email address that is not linked to your name, job, community, or family.
- Keep private. As you get to know the other person, maintain privacy until you are confident that you can trust them. Do not reveal private details about your life or your children.
- Be careful about sharing photos. Digital pictures often have metadata that is attached to them that can reveal the location and the timing of the photograph. You may not want the other person to have this information, especially if the picture is part of a public profile that can be viewed by anyone. Also, avoid sending any provocative pictures that could be embarrassing to you, your employer or your family, as any picture could potentially be published to the web (and also subject you to threats of blackmail).
- Meet in public. Have your first few encounters in a public location, such as a coffee shop. Do not have your date pick you up or drop you off at your home. Let someone know of your plans and your expected arrival time. Check up with this person when you get back home.
Linked Investigations offers a variety of private investigative services that can assist you in confirming the identity and background of a person you meet online, including surveillance and background check services. Let us help you avoid hidden dangers lurking online. Contact us now or call us at 877-464-5374 for a free, no-obligation consultation.