PORTLAND -- When you see people staring into their cell phones, they might be emailing someone, they might be texting – or they could be dating.
Using mobile devices for online dating has skyrocketed, up nearly 70 percent in the past year. A lot of people that use these online dating sites find someone special and then take their relationship off the dating website and straight to email and texting.
But until you actually meet that person face to face, do you really know who is on the other end of that instant message?
Susan Anderson’s sister signed her up for the dating website, Christianconnection.com.
“She said I needed a man and I was not really interested,” Anderson said.
But soon, she started getting a lot of emails on her iPad and phone. One email in particular caught her eye.
“He proceeded to give me his phone number and we started texting as well,” she said.
Anderson received pictures of her new guy -- photos of him with his sons and even goofy shots taken during the holidays.
Then, when he lost his wallet while traveling, this new man asked Anderson to help him.
“Would I wire $200 to this FedEx place where this gentleman just happened to have his wallet?” Susan recalls.
The man sent a text, saying “Baby, I don’t want to lose that wallet and I have valuables in it, so if he needs 200 dollars, please do it if you can.”
But instead of sending the money, Susan knew something was fishy, so she simply played along.
“My main purpose was to bust him, so he wouldn't do this to another woman,” she said.
Online dating using mobile devices has skyrocketed this year. The fraud detection experts at Iovation said nearly 40 percent of all online dating is done on mobile devices.
“I think the world is just moving to mobile and people are just really interested in who's looking at their profile, have they sent out something, are they looking for a response back,” said Iovations Vice President of Operations Molly O’Hearn.
Iovation analyzed tens of millions of online dating transactions and O’Hearn said, as the dating websites shift their focus and cater directly to specialty groups like Christians, Seniors, Divorcees, Politics and recovery, things can get dicey.
“That actually makes it easier for the bad guys, because now they have some more, inside specific information to ask you about what you care about,” she said.
Which takes us back to Susan Anderson and her new man. A man whose twin son just happened to develop a brain tumor while traveling in England.
The man sent Anderson a text, asking for $10,000 pounds, which is about $16,000 US. He said he needed it for a hospital treatment for his son.
Then, he sent another text, saying, “If anything happens to Brian [his son] then you have failed your Christian duty.”
Anderson said she still doesn’t know who the scammer is.
He could be you,” she said. “That’s right, I really don’t know.”
But Unit 8 did some checking and found out the man who sent the photos of himself with his kids and at holiday parties, is not the man Susan was texting and emailing.
The hospital where the man’s imaginary son was about to have brain tumor surgery didn’t really exist. Instead, the fictitious hospital’s website was created by a man in Nigeria.
Unit 8 sent texts and emails to the man’s online address, but didn’t get a reply.
The photo of the man Susan thought she was exchanging information with actually has three different profiles with three different names on the Christian Connection website.
Experts said if you use online dating websites, never give out your personal information, never text or email your address and if you give money to someone you met on a dating website before meeting, consider that money gone forever.