Sandy Brindley, the national co-ordinator of Rape Crisis Scotland, has warned consumers about the dangers of online dating after an increase in sexual assault cases.
Over 160 people in Scotland are raped per year on either a first or second date, with many of these meetings coming after an online conversation.
The total number of rape offences in 2018-19 was over 2,200, according to official figures.
The actual number of instances may be far higher, police warn, as sexual assault is significantly under-reported.
Brindley said: “Even if there was some consensual activity – drinking or you go out for dinner with somebody – it does not mean that somebody is entitled to sex.
“We do hear of people where they meet somebody on the first date, and it does turn out that the person isn’t who they’ve said they were online and sadly it does end in a rape taking place.
“I think this is just as significant and serious a crime as what has traditionally been seen as a stranger rape – somebody jumping out from behind a bush – because it is very deliberate and calculated targeting.”
Police Scotland have launched a £30,000 campaign titled ‘#GetConsent’, which will push the message in nightclub toilets and on social media.
Last month, the FBI issued a statement warning US singles about the dangers of romance fraud. The average victim in the country lost approximately $20,000.
In July, executives from Match Group, The Meet Group and Spark Networks joined the UK’s Online Dating Association for a panel discussion on user safety.
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