As we enter the new millennium the Internet is evolving into a major meeting ground, one that affords us access to people all over the world and draws us daily into online relationships with individuals we have not yet met. An increasing number of people are using the Internet to meet and get acquainted with potential mates.
While many of those online interactions do bloom into friendships and relationships, a small number do not have happy endings Beth Wadsworth learned this lesson the hard way.
When Wadsworth began exchanging emails with Thomas Abney, she thought she, too, might have found love on the Internet. It turns out that what she had really found was a dangerous man who would try to kill her.
Wadsworth met Abney in 1999 while surfing the Web. The two hit it off and began corresponding. "We just started talking and trading information about our lives," says Wadsworth. " We seemed to have the same values and morals."
After only one month of emailing each other, Wadsworth invited her potential new love to visit her.
Abney flew to San Diego, where Wadsworth lives, and the two spent some time getting to know each other off-line. Abney wasn't who he appeared to be, however.
When the visit was coming to an end, he turned violent without warning. "He jumped on me and started strangling me," Wadsworth remembers. "I was totally in shock."
When it was over, Abney had attacked Wadsworth with a claw-hammer and slit her throat with a steak knife. He then took Wadsworth's wallet and car keys, leaving her for dead.
"I don't remember being hit, but I had three gashes in my skull," Wadsworth says. "He probably thought I was dead when he left."
Beth wasn't dead, however. She managed to call ‘911’ for help, and Abney was arrested at the airport.
He was eventually convicted of premeditated attempted murder, robbery, and auto theft and was sentenced to life plus 14 years in prison.
"I felt pretty stupid that I'd let this stranger into my house, and this is what happened," Wadsworth says. "I will never meet anybody on the Internet again."
While the dangers faced by Wadsworth and other singles aren't unique to online dating, the anonymous nature of the Internet does make it easier for people to be deceptive about who they are.
With the concerns—and dangers—of meeting others in this manner rising exponentially, it is no surprise that one website has already clicked with millions of netizens: WhoisHe.Com and WhoisShe.Com, a professional service designed to verify if persons are who they purport to be.
Are they married? How old are they? Have they ever used an alias?