GREENBELT, Md. — Greenbelt police are warning the public after reports of masked men who are posing as women on dating apps are robbing their victims in real life.
Police said Sunday that "several reports" have been made of armed robberies in the area through the plan. Authorities said the victims then respond to the agreed-upon location but are instead "met by armed suspects wearing masks."
The victims, police said, are usually physically assaulted along with their wallets, car keys, and cell phones being taken.
Police in Greenbelt are now urging the public "to refrain" from meeting strangers through dating apps.
Anyone with information on the crimes is asked to call Greenbelt police at (301) 474-7200.
Earlier this month, a man was charged and arrested after he allegedly raped and assaulted a woman he met on an online dating website, Montgomery County Police said.
During the investigation, detectives learned that on January 25, 50-year-old William Gelfeld invited a woman he met on Jdate, an online dating service to his home in Rockville for dinner.
Police said Gelfeld allegedly raped and assaulted the woman during the date.
The woman told police that at one point Gelfeld put his hands around her neck causing her not to breathe.
Montgomery County police were made aware of the incident by officers in Fairfax County after the woman sought medical treatment in Virginia.
A warrant was issued for Gelfeld’s arrest and he was arrested four days later.
Authorities believe there are more victims and are asking anyone who believes that they know or are a victim of Gelfed to call the Special Victims Investigations Division at 240-773-5050.
On Feb. 4, a study was released of the dangerous places for online dating in the United States with Maryland ranking 5th on the list and Virginia being 7th.
According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), internet dating sites are hotbeds for "romance scams" — in which a con artist strikes up a bogus online relationship for financial gain.
A team compiled a list of the safest and most dangerous states for online dating by using recent stats on violent crime, cybercrime statistics, STD data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, along with sex education data.
While online dating can be a great way to connect with new people, of course, keep an eye out for any potential warning signs.