A Las Vegas woman is suing Match.com for $9.9 million after she was set up with a man who nearly killed her.
Mary Kay Beckman is accusing the popular dating site of failing to disclose the dangers of online dating and for perpetuating a false sense of security in the company’s commercials.
Attorney Marc Saggese said the company had an obligation to state the dangers of meeting strangers online.
“It’s the equivalent of going on Craigslist or going into a chatroom,” he said. “There are no screenings. There are no background checks.”
Company officials did not return calls seeking comment.
Beckman was 49 when she was “matched” with Wade Mitchell Ridley on the site in September 2010, according to the lawsuit, filed Friday in U.S. District Court. Both were paid subscribers to the website.
They dated briefly before she broke it off. Ridley then began sending her threatening text messages, and he ambushed her outside her home on Jan. 21, 2011.
He stabbed her 10 times in the face, head and upper body – until the knife broke. He then stomped on her.
Beckman survived the attack, after undergoing three surgeries in the following seven months.
In February 2011, Ridley was arrested on charges of murdering an ex-girlfriend in Phoenix. He was sentenced to 28 to 70 years in prison, where he died last year at age 54.
Saggese said Match commercials should state the dangers of online dating.
“Cigarettes have warning labels,” Saggese said. “This is much more dangerous. These are human beings meeting together, and there are no warnings or caveats against meeting strangers.”
The website did institute some changes after a lawsuit stemming from a different attack.
In 2011, several months after Beckman was stabbed, Los Angeles resident Carole Markin filed a lawsuit against the company after she was sexually assaulted by a man she met on the site.
Markin did not want money from the lawsuit, just a court order requiring the site to check members’ backgrounds.
Soon after, Match began checking its members against state and federal sex-offender databases.
Saggese said Match’s commercials, which tout the site’s success in creating marriages, need to make clear that that the site does not screen its customers for criminal records. It’s unclear whether that would have saved Beckman.
“There truly are no protections,” Saggese said. “They need to be honest about it.”
Robert Siciliano, a personal security expert for Iovation Inc., specializes in online protection and said Internet daters should be extremely cautious in the early stages of a relationship.
Siciliano recommends having at least the first five dates at public places. Avoid drinking alcohol to excess, which lowers inhibitions, and get as much information about the person as you can without giving away your personal information.
“That can take weeks, but it’s worth the wait,” he said. “Bad guys lie – a lot. And they will keep up the ruse until they have what they need or until you are in a vulnerable place.”
According to her lawsuit, Beckman broke up with Ridley after 10 days of dating. But Ridley knew where she lived and was hiding in her garage when he attacked her several months later.
Beckman also received a large amount of harassing texts and phone calls from Ridley. Siciliano said that is a huge red flag.
“The moment that another human being shows aggression toward you, that’s grounds to report it to the police department,” he said.
Obtaining a restraining order is important because it’s a legal document police can use to make an arrest, he said. But when a piece of paper doesn’t work, Siciliano recommends a woman take self-defense classes or start carrying a weapon.
Some stalkers are mentally ill and won’t quit, he said. In that case, the best thing can be to simply disappear for awhile.
“Stalking is all about domination. It’s a person making efforts to control a person’s life. Stalkers become obsessive investigators, interrogators and intimidators.”
Contact reporter Lawrence Mower at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-405-9781. Contact reporter Mike Blasky at email@example.com or 702-383-0283.