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Robbers luring victims via dating sites, meet-up apps, police warn

PETERSBURG, Va. -- Law enforcement is warning the public that robbers are using internet dating websites and meet-up apps to target their victims.

What often starts with a voluptuous photograph of a woman posted on a dating website or app like Plenty of Fish, Tinder and Backpage often ends in a robbery on a dark street in Petersburg, police said.

"There's not a lot of street lights," Cpl. James Darrington, a detective with Petersburg Police, said pointing to where one such crime occurred.

Officials said four men robbed at gunpoint since February thought they were pulling over to meet up with a woman they met online.

"Some guys come from behind the house," Darrington said. "You've got two of them show up and put a gun in your face."

Darrington said during the first crime in February and that the suspects opened fire when the victim took off running in that case.

"Shell casings were recovered," Darrington noted.

While the shots missed the man, the suspects stole his car. Police said two other victims also had their cars stolen.

Darrington said the victims said they were using online dating sites like Plenty of Fish, Tinder and Back Page.

Police believe the total number of crimes is closer to a dozen and that other victims have not yet come forward.

Police said if you plan to meet someone you do not know, be sure to meet in a well-lit area where there are lots of people.