11 Jul 2017

Stealing Hearts (and more) on Social Media

by Verlie Oosthuizen, Partner, Durban,
Practice Area(s): Social Media / Cyber Crimes |

It seems that the news surrounding social media is getting stranger and stranger by the day.  In the past week it was reported that a young woman was arrested for robbery in Pretoria after she lured a man into her flat after “meeting” him on an online dating app and stole his possessions.  Instead of a romantic date he was confronted by three other people who took his cellphone as well as money from him.

There is a phenomenon related to social media called the “disinhibition effect” which means that people will throw caution to the wind and behave in a manner that they would not normally when they are on these platforms.  Some psychologists believe that this is due to the feelings of anonymity that people enjoy when online – other users cannot see them and do not necessarily know them.  One of the effects of this is that users do not behave in a cautious manner and will not assess risks properly.  Most of us would not go to a stranger’s house in normal everyday life however many will think nothing of doing this after meeting once on a dating app.

It is not surprising that criminals are using social media as a tool in their arsenal.  Social media users need to exercise extreme caution when using dating apps or meeting people that they have only conversed with online.  Always meet in a public place first and keep your wits about you.