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Dating in the digital age: How you can protect yourself from frauds

Even with love in the air this Valentine's Day, you need to err on the side of caution especially if you met someone online.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Even with love in the air this Valentine's Day, you need to err on the side of caution, especially if you met someone online.

In November, 10TV had the story about a man impersonating an Ohio State University doctor on dating apps. The whole situation spun out of control.

Two women he was dating turned him into police after they figured out he was lying. Detectives showed up at his door asking for his fake badge.

When detectives asked him why he had it, they said he told them, "How else can a 42-year-old guy get women to date him?"

10TV is choosing not to identify this man because he has not been charged.

After our story aired, several other women came forward, saying they dated this guy, too. Although he had been reported to the dating apps before, the man was able to keep making new profiles and the cycle continued.

"Here he is — he's still out there — duping women left and right," said one woman, who wanted to remain anonymous for her safety.

10TV reached out to Bumble and Hinge to find out more about their policies after women claimed they reported the man to both platforms. We asked both dating apps: What happens once someone is reported for bad behavior and how do they ensure that the person doesn't create another profile?

Our questions were not answered.

"These dating websites [need] to have greater accountability for what's going on," said Katie Annarino, who dated the doctor impersonator. "There's no accountability from the companies and they've just been given a perfect way to access women."

Detective Andre Edwards works in the special victims bureau for the Columbus Division of Police. He said when it comes to being safe while online dating, the only person you can count on is you.

"Play detective. Find out who this person is," Edwards said. "There are so many ways and tools out there right now that we can verify who people are that you should almost absolutely know exactly who you are dealing with before you meet this person face-to-face."

Here are some tips to follow before you go on a date:

  • Make sure your date has a social media footprint — Edwards said nowadays, if someone isn't on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or LinkedIn — it's a red flag. They might not be giving you their true identity.
  • Talk to your date on the phone — Do not just message or text your date. You need to hear their voice or see them on video chat before you ever meet. Not only can you make sure their provided photo is accurate, but you can also read their personality better this way.
  • Ask your date questions — Make sure you are inquisitive with your date. You should ask them where they are from, where they went to school, and what they do for a living. You then need to verify this information as best you can using public records online.
  • Check the other apps — Oftentimes, if someone is on one dating app, they are on another. Look for your date's profile on the other dating apps/sites to see if the information they provided is consistent among platforms. If they list conflicting information, that is a red flag.

"If they're being honest with you, there is nothing they are going to hide from you at any point," Edwards said.

Although they did not answer our questions, Bumble and Hinge both sent statements to 10TV.

Bumble sent the following statement:

"Bumble takes each report we receive seriously. While we can’t always disclose the results of an investigation to a reporter due to privacy restrictions, each in-app report is reviewed by a real person on our moderation team. All decisions are made based on our Community Guidelines in order to ensure that everyone on Bumble is held to the same standards of kindness, respect, and empowerment."

Hinge sent the following statement:

"The safety of our members is Hinge's number one priority. We have a zero-tolerance policy for any harassment on Hinge. Every report is escalated to the top of our customer service queue so they can take immediate action to maintain the safety of our community. Additionally, we are the only dating app to check in with our members after a first date using our "We Met" feature, which prompts members to share feedback on how their date went. This goes beyond just waiting for members to let us know of bad behavior and proactively encourages feedback on respectfulness and appropriateness. So far, we're finding that less than .01% of dates are reported for bad behavior, and we'll continue to work hard to reduce that number even further."

According to the Pew Research Center, "roughly half of Americans overall (53%) say dating sites and apps are a very or somewhat safe way to meet people, while 46% believe they are not too or not at all safe."