‘If I fell into it, anybody can’: Online dating sites great for connection, but also for cons

More than 19,000 people reported being victims of romance scams last year. As one local woman shares her story, police are warning the community and offering advice.
At a time when Palm Springs police are warning the community about online dating scams, Marci Rosenblum shared her story, hoping that others can learn from her mistake.

Marci Rosenblum says she was in a vulnerable place when she met a woman online who, over a six month period, extracted thousands of dollars from her. Rosenblum, despite seeing several red flags, kept seeing the woman – and kept giving her money – until, finally, she realized the woman had no intention of really being with her. 

“If I fell into it, anybody can,” Rosenblum said recently. 

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Rosenblum, 61, describes herself as an “internet person,” which means she thought she had the knowledge and skills to avoid being scammed. She works in internet and social media marketing. 

“I think I’m smart then I realize, wow, they’re smarter than I am,” she said. 

Rosenblum was in a relationship for more than three decades prior to logging onto dating apps for the first time last year. Since then, she said, in addition to some “horrible people,” she comes across a lot of fake profiles, and has learned a few things to look out for.  

She advises not to give anyone your phone number or take the conversation to a third-party app – wait until you have actually met them before you give them that information.

The first meeting should be in public, she added, and look out for misspellings, inconsistencies in what they’re saying or how they’re saying it, and if they use a generic term like “dear” instead of your name when they’re chatting with you. 

In a social media post Thursday, the Palm Springs Police had similar warnings, noting that “Online dating can be a great opportunity to meet new people. However, predators are known to use dating apps to victimize unsuspecting and trusting people. As online dating has become more popular, victims have reported being subjected to harassment, theft, money scams, fraud, stalking, and physical and sexual abuse by someone whom they met online.”

The police department offered suggestions for staying safe on dating apps, including the following:

• Using a reputable dating site or app (reading reviews is recommended).

• Protecting your personal information.

• Using a different email address.

• Avoiding connecting with suspicious profiles. If the person you matched with has no bio, only one picture, and no linked social media accounts, it may be a fake account. Trust your instincts and end the conversation or date if something feels off. Block and report suspicious users if necessary.

• Doing research before meeting someone in person. Search for their name and check their social media profiles to confirm they are who they say they are.

• Telling a friend or family member where you’re going, who you’re meeting, and when you expect to be back. You could even consider sharing your location with a trusted contact.

• Meeting in a public place.

• Taking it slow. Take your time getting to know someone online and don’t feel pressured to meet in person until you’re ready.

• Being in control. Take your own transportation to and from the date so you can leave whenever you want and avoid getting into a vehicle with someone you’re not comfortable with.

• Not responding to requests to send money. Online scammers may try to get money through wire transfers or gift cards.

“I think I’m smart then I realize, wow, they’re smarter than I am.”

— Marci Rosenblum

A total of $10.3 billion in losses due to cyber crime were reported in 2022, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s latest Internet Crime Report. People ages 60 and above have reported $3.1 billion in losses. California reported the most victims – 80,766 in 2022 – and the most financial losses – more than $2 billion – in the U.S. 

More than 19,000 people reported being victims of confidence/romance scams. The number is likely higher, however, since some people, including Rosenblum, don’t make a report.  

When asked about crime related to dating apps in Palm Springs, Lt. Gustavo Araiza said that most happen after the initial meeting.  

“The only trend we tend to see with online dating, which is more specific to one-night hook-ups, is that the suspect and victim meet up and engage in alcohol or drug use leading to consensual sex,” Araiza wrote via email. “Then, depending on where the finale is,  the victim will wake up to find their partner gone and some of their property missing too.”

Earlier this year, however, a man visiting from Florida reported that he was drugged and assaulted in Palm Springs after meeting a man here on a dating app. Palm Springs Police verified Thursday that this crime was reported to them immediately and, they added, investigators are still working with the survivor to identify and prosecute the alleged suspect. 

Police are asking that anyone with information related to this incident contact Detective Jimenez at 760-323-8136 or juan.jimenez@palmspringsca.gov.


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