Digital Dating: benefits and risks

Published: Feb. 14, 2018 at 5:41 PM CST
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People across the country are looking for love, and more and more of them are searching for it online.

PEW research shows 15 percent of all adults in the U.S. -roughly 40 million people- have used online dating sites or mobile dating apps. And now it's catching on with a younger generation. The number of 18- to 24-year-olds who have found a date online has nearly tripled from 10 percent to 27 percent.

"I think that online dating has become such a big thing these days for convenience," psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner Lindsey Blount says. "The hustle and bustle of everybody's lives now, it's just really easy."

They're all hoping for that fairy tale happy ending.

"I don't know what led me to eHarmony, but I went to eHarmony. I just say it was the Lord, who led me there," Tobey Bartee says.

After 25 years of marriage, Tobey had lost his wife to cancer

"That was the loneliest and the scariest part of my life," he says.

Tobey decided to set up an online dating profile.

"Out of all the contacts I had, this lady for some reason stood out," he says. "Lynnita stated something like, 'Hi, I just wanted to send a quick message to you.' That was our first communication, how she was reaching out to me. And I sent her my phone number."

The emails, letters and conversations just kept coming until they finally met in person.

"I knew the day that I laid eyes on her that she would become my wife," Tobey says.

Now, after 10 years of marriage and an 8-year-old daughter, it's an unexpected happily ever after. But that's not always how the story ends. We talked to a Mississippi man about a scam his sister got caught up in after meeting a man online and falling for his story.

"I said, 'Well how much did you send him?' She told me the first part was like $1500," he says.

He agreed to talk to us if we protected his identity.

"(She said) He's a diamond dealer, and he went to make a diamond exchange over in Dubai," the man explains.

He says his sister sent the mystery man money for a flight out of Dubai, then more money when he told her police had arrested him at the airport and even more money when he told her he had contracted pneumonia at the jail and needed to pay hospital bills.

"Over about a three month period, she sent him close to $8,000," the man says.

The worst part: he says his sister still believes her diamond dealer "boyfriend" is real and won't report what happened.

"Oh, it's heart-breaking because it's my own flesh and blood," he says. "It's a very serious issue."

It's a scam many get caught up in, but there are ways to keep yourself safe when dating online. We'll tell you how to spot the red flags Thursday in part two of our special assignment.