Georgia woman’s lawsuit: Dating site matched me with a rapist

Transformation: At left, Devin Richard Hartman as he appeared in a Fulton County Sheriff’s Office photo after his arrest in 2014. He was 40 at the time. At right, Hartman as he appears in a state Department of Corrections photo in 2016.

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Transformation: At left, Devin Richard Hartman as he appeared in a Fulton County Sheriff’s Office photo after his arrest in 2014. He was 40 at the time. At right, Hartman as he appears in a state Department of Corrections photo in 2016.


Tips for safe online dating

These tips are mostly derived from getsafeonline.org. When the relationship moves from the virtual world to the real one:

  • Agree on what you both want from your date before you meet. Don't feel pressured to meet before you're ready or for any longer than you're comfortable with – a short first date is fine.
  • Meet in public and stay in public. Make your own way there and back and don't feel pressured to go home with your date. If you feel ready to move to a private environment, make sure your expectations match your date's.
  • Tell a friend where you'll be and when, and tell them to call you at a certain time to make sure you're OK.
  • Get to know the person, not the profile. Your date may seem more guarded in person, or things may not progress as fast face-to-face.
  • Don't feel bad about cutting a date short if it's not going well.

And more generally, according to Match.com and the Federal Trade Commission, here are red flags that indicate a scammer at work. Beware anyone who:

  • Quickly asks to talk or chat on an outside email or messaging service
  • Vanishes mysteriously from the site, then reappears under a different name
  • Talks about "destiny" or "fate"
  • Claims to be recently widowed
  • Asks for your address, saying they want to send flowers or gifts
  • Makes a lot of grammar and/or spelling errors
  • Claims to be from a U.S. citizen who is working or traveling abroad
  • Asks for money or for Social Security or credit card number

A Georgia woman is suing on online dating site for fixing her up with a sexual predator, a Cobb County man who was later sentenced to life in prison for raping the woman during their first encounter.

Devin Richard Hartman had raped at least four women he met online before creating a profile on OkCupid.com in May 2014, according to the lawsuit, which was filed last week in Fulton County State Court. Hartman, whose online profile was “midwestisbest13,” said his name was Zach Anderson, an Ohio State University graduate who worked for a medical supply company — all part of a persona he created to meet women, according to police.

Hartman is serving consecutive life sentences after his conviction on rape and sodomy charges. The suit alleges that OkCupid.com and its parent companies should have known Hartman was a predator and should not have permitted him to use the site.

Online dating sites are popular with adults of all ages, and the number of people turning to the Internet to find romance has risen steadily during the past decade, according to Pew Research Institute findings. As many as 1 in 10 people now use online platforms, though only about 5 percent of those in a committed relationship or married say they met their partner online.

Cases such as the one involving Hartman are rare, according to Michael Kaiser, executive director of the National Cyber Security Alliance. There are precautions to take to stay safe, even things as simple as conducting your own online search of the prospective date’s name, he said.

“If you’re going to be going out with anyone, you have to take the time to get to know them,” Kaiser said. “Always have your antenna up. If someone is super eager to meet you, that should be a red flag.”

Attorneys for the plaintiff and defendants did not respond to requests Tuesday for comment on the Fulton County case. The plaintiff is identified by name in the lawsuit, but The Atlanta Journal-Constitution does not identify victims of sexual assault.

According to the recent lawsuit, Hartman contacted the woman on June 11, 2014, because the two shared a high “match percentage,” a formula determined by OkCupid after those creating profiles answer a series of questions. Nine days later, the two met for their first date, the woman later told police.

The woman, then 26, told police she drank six beers before her date dropped her off at her car, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution previously reported. The next thing she remembers was waking up on her own doorstep without her keys, cell phone or underwear, she told police.

At Grady Memorial Hospital, an exam determined the woman had been sexually assaulted, and the woman called police. Through DNA testing and phone records, investigators were able to track down the woman’s attacker several months later. But his name wasn’t Zach Anderson.

Atlanta police arrested Hartman, who lived in Mableton, on March 2, 2015, on rape and aggravated sodomy charges, the AJC reported.

The woman told police she believes she was drugged and couldn’t remember most of what happened that night, a police report said.

Hartman was married to his second wife at the time of his arrest and was the father of three, according to a modified divorce agreement filed in Cobb County Superior Court. In December 2015, he was convicted after a weeklong trial and sentenced to two consecutive life sentences, The AJC reported.

During the trial, four other women testified they were also Hartman’s victims. He began serving his sentence at at Coffee Correctional Facility in Nichols In January.

The plaintiff in the lawsuit requests a trial and is seeking unspecified damages for her injuries, medical expenses, lost wages and mental anguish.

Kaiser, who is not involved in the lawsuit, said predators such as Hartman may be hard to identify behind online profiles.

“A little dose of skepticism wouldn’t hurt a relationship that’s really going to happen,” he said. “Take your time and see what happens. And trust your instincts.”

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