MeetMe app blamed for crimes

Lawsuit alleges app is tool for predators

By Jace Larson - Investigative Reporter

HOUSTON - A relatively new cellphone application that allows users to see and chat with strangers nearby is blamed for at least two robberies in the Houston area, and police tell Local 2 Investigates that they think there are more victims.

MeetMe allows users to see bio photos of other users and how close those users are.

"With one tap, it shows you people who are close by," Amanda Wildes told investigative reporter Jace Larson.

Her home was burglarized after a man she met on the application stole her purse, keys and cellphone.

Wildes said she had chatted and talked on the phone with a man named Rico for a month before they decided to meet in person a few days before the robbery.

"I even went to his house, and his mom gave me soup and everything," Wildes said.

A few days later, she and Rico were driving in the northwest metro area. Wildes said she asked to listen to a different CD, but the CD changer was in the trunk. She said Rico then pulled over and she got out, but she said he sped away and left her behind.

"He had my purse, my cellphone and the keys to my house and my debit card, everything," she said.

When she finally got back to her Friendswood home, her jewelry and two televisions were missing. Police suspect that the burglar was the man she met on the MeetMe app.

According to police, there are other victims in different cases.

A man and his friends were robbed and pistol-whipped in November after a woman on MeetMe lured them to a northwest Harris County home.

The woman claimed that she was having a party. When the men walked through a gate on the side of the house, two men with a gun confronted the victims.

"Basically they robbed them of the car keys, cellphone and other valuables," Harris County Precinct 4 Assistant Chief Mark Herman told Local 2.

Two people were arrested and two are still on the run, he said.

Herman thinks this type of thing happens more than police know about.

"We feel there are other potential victims out there. Some may have a wife or girlfriend or significant other that they don't want them to know they are surfing the Internet for companionship or to meet other people," he said.

A Local 2 producer signed up for the service to experience it firsthand. Within hours, she had several people wanting to converse.

"Hey sexy, can I call you? How are you doing," one person wrote.

Another asked, "Can you send me a photo of you so I can show Santa what I want for Christmas?"

A MeetMe company spokesman said via email that the website and application have 1 million users a day, and robberies are not the norm.

The spokesperson also said MeetMe has monitors that review activity on the site and send anything of concern to law enforcement.

The city of San Francisco has filed a lawsuit against MeetMe, claiming that the company published photos, profiles and locations of minors as young as 13. The lawsuit accuses MeetMe of failing to provide adequate privacy.

"As previously disclosed by the San Francisco City Attorney's office, MeetMe is engaged in discussions to resolve the case," the MeetMe spokesman said in a statement.

The company said it cautions users about meeting people they do not know.

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