Police urge caution when using dating websites
A question once posed by accused movie theater gunman James Holmes on a dating website, asking potential love interests, “Will you visit me in prison?” can be admitted as evidence at his murder trial, a Colorado judge ruled on Thursday.
The decision was a setback, but not an unexpected one, for Holmes, who faces the death penalty if convicted in the shooting deaths of 12 moviegoers at a suburban Denver cinema last summer during a screening of the Batman film “The Dark Knight Rises.”
BY DYLAN GOFORTH World Staff Writer
Monday, August 19, 2013
8/19/13 at 3:04 AM
Millions of people each year create profiles on one or more of the numerous online dating websites. Police warn that a common belief – that these sites run background checks or at least cross-reference new members against national sex-offender databases – is not necessarily true.
“You never can be sure – not really – about who you’re talking to,” Tulsa Police Department Public Information Officer Leland Ashley said. “It’s dangerous because it really could be anyone behind that screen, and you’ve maybe given them personal information like your phone number, your address.
“You might think you’ve given your information to someone you can trust, but they could really be anyone, and they could have something else in mind.”
One of these sites, OKcupid.com, is where Tiffany Rene Maher, a Northeastern State University professor who was found dead in her Tahlequah home, allegedly met the man who is accused of killing her and setting fire to her body.
Maher’s body was found in May. The man accused of killing her, Joshua Schneider, was arrested nearly two months later.
Court documents state that the two communicated many times in messages on dating sites. Maher likely didn’t know she was dating a convicted sex offender, and the websites are under no legal obligation to screen for them.
Okcupid’s website warns members to be wary of information released online and states that it doesn’t conduct criminal background checks – likely because of the cost of conducting such searches on the site’s purported more than 5 million members.
California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris released a three-page statement in 2012, outlining the “key principles” of online dating safety. The statement came after a California woman sued Match.com after she was sexually assaulted by a man with multiple sex-offense convictions in his past.
As a result of the statement, Match.com, eHarmony and Spark Networks agreed to help educate their members to protect against theft, scams and sexual predators. The three agencies agreed to use “tools and technologies” to identify sexual predators, including checking members against sex-offender databases when possible.
However, only eHarmony.com advertises that it does so, saying it screens registrations against sex-offender registries. However, it adds that “such screenings are inherently limited.”
Of the most popular Internet dating websites, the majority have fine print telling members to be wary of potential pitfalls.
Match.com tells members that by registering on the site, they have represented that they are not registered as a sex offender with any government agency. Others, such as OKcupid.com, explicitly state that they do not conduct background checks on users and urge members to use “extreme caution.”
Kamala’s statement says the screening tools available have limitations that do not ensure member safety.
“What you end up with is a scenario where you have people who are trusting other people and maybe even trusting that these types of things are being done,” Ashley said. “And a lot of times, they’re not.”
Ashley offered tips for Tulsans thinking of registering on one of the sites.
“Don’t meet with someone alone,” he said. “Meet in a group if you can or in a public place that’s well-lit. And always be on guard that the person you think you’re talking to and meeting might not actually be who you’re about to see.”
Ashley urged those using the dating services to “do everything you can to keep yourself safe. That’s the bottom line.”
Original Print Headline: Dating sites scrutinized
This Schneider asshole also killed the woman’s (Maher’s) four pet cats – that hacks me off. It’s one thing to murder a human being, but why harm the pets? They have nothing to do with anything.
Joshua Schneider was arrested in south Tulsa on Saturday afternoon following a more than weeklong manhunt. Schneider, 33, is accused of killing Tiffany Rene Maher. Maher, 38, and her four cats were found dead in her Tahlequah home on May 31, and it appeared a fire had been set in the residence, police said.
Schneider and Maher communicated through Internet dating websites in the days leading up to her death, and Schneider was allegedly found to have possessed items reported stolen from Maher’s home, according to the affidavit filed Monday….
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