New dating app aims to protect from registered sex offenders, criminals

Digital dating expert gives 3 rules users should follow

HOUSTON – Criminals and catfishing are two things every single woman and man wants to avoid in the world of online and smartphone dating.

Finding a mate in the digital age can be an exhausting endeavor with plenty of phony and misleading profiles to sort through, but a new app promises to do the vetting for you.

It's the dangerous side of online dating -- millions of single women and men swiping left and swiping right on dating apps, such as Tinder, Zoosk, POF and Bumble, never knowing for sure if what you see is what you're going to get.

"I'm just hoping to meet someone who's honest, true and, you know, their profile matches what they say," said Zari Sue, of Houston.

At 24 years old, single and raising a 2-year-old son on her own, Sue has been playing the game for three years now and has been burned several times.

There was the jail inmate she said somehow messaged her, asking her for some commissary cash. And there's the time she was catfished by a 60-year-old man, passing himself off as his 25-year-old son.

"He says he uses his son. That's how he gets women. Says he prefers women that are younger than him," Sue said. "I'm like, 'This is not happening.'"

May 10, 2017, Aubrey, Texas. Four men using the dating app Grindr are indicted on hate crime charges for luring gay men via the dating app, and then robbing and beating them.

May 27, 2015, Gainesville, Florida. Jarrod Roberts is charged with stalking two different women he met through the dating app Tinder.

"With online dating sites, you are available to everyone," said Joe Penora, CEO and founder of Gatsby.

With an estimated 38 million American singles currently involved in online dating, there's a brand new online dating app. An app that promises to protect you from registered sex offenders and criminals.

It's called Gatsby, a smartphone dating app that scans millions of publicly available criminal records before you're allowed to post your profile.

"When you sign up, if you have a criminal record, whether it's a sex offender, theft, attempted murder, rape, you cannot use our dating app at all," Penora said. "We block anyone with a felony or misdemeanor record."

Nationally known digital dating expert Julie Spira likes Gatsby. She's written a book called "The Perils of Cyber Dating" and has three rules users should follow.

Rule No. 1: Always meet in a busy place.

"You need to either walk or bring your own car, or take a ridesharing service," Spira said.

Rule No. 2: Say "no" to late-night meetups.

"I just say do not accept any dates after 9 p.m. at night. You don't know who was the happy hour, who was the dinner and now you are the dessert," Spira said. "It's very dangerous."

Rule No. 3: Check social media.

"Even hop over to Instagram to see if they're out partying all night or if they are in the arms of other women in every single photo," Spira said.

As for Sue, she's been on Gatsby for three weeks now -- with, she said, "zero drama."

"It makes me feel really comfortable," Sue said. "I feel like I can open up more."

Gatsby is a totally free cyber dating app. It was just launched to the pool of people. Using it is not huge, KPRC 2 is told there are several thousand members at this point.

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About the Author:

Emmy-winning investigative reporter, insanely competitive tennis player, skier, weightlifter, crazy rock & roll drummer (John Bonham is my hero). Husband to Veronica and loving cat father to Bella and Meemo.