Over the past six months, our sex crimes defense law firm has taken hundreds of calls from prospective clients in southern California who share a similar story.
The adult person contacted a younger person online, typically someone he or she had first communicated with through a dating app or website. That person is using a site in which you must be 18 or older to use, and in many cases, the person informs the adult that he or she is in fact an adult.
These conversations eventually lead to setting up a meeting, which the adult believes is entirely legal, even if it is for a sexual purpose.
However, somewhere in the conversation, the person made a comment that would indicate to a reasonable person that the adult is actually speaking to a minor. The minor might say that he is “a senior in high school” or “he is almost old enough to get his driver’s license.” Sometimes, the minor will say “I am really 17 years old, but I still would love to meet with you.”
Arranging a meeting with a minor could lead to serious consequences in California. A person who is arrested for contacting a minor could face years in jail or prison and expensive fines under Penal Code 288.3 or Penal Code 288.4.
But sending the victim of this scam to jail is not the point. The scammer knows of these harsh penalties, and will use it against his or her victim.
This multi-layered scam truly begins after the adult and the minor arrange a meeting. Around the time the meeting is to take place, the adult will receive a call from an “angry parent” – in reality the call is from someone pretending to be an angry parent.
Threats to Be Charged with Contacting a Minor for Sexual Purposes
This “angry parent” will say that he or she just found out that the adult is speaking to his or her minor child and that he or she knows the adult was about to meet with the minor. In our experience, the fake parent will claim that the minor either got into a car accident on the way to the meeting or will now need therapy due to the ordeal. This is the adult’s fault and thus the adult must pay $10,000 for damages, the “angry parent” will claim. If the adult does not agree to pay the money, the “angry parent” will threaten to call the police unless the supposed damages are paid.
While the vast majority of these calls from an “angry parent” are bogus, they are real in some cases. To determine whether our client has been victimized by a scam, our law firm will review the context of the communication between the minor and our client.
If we determine that this is a scam, our lawyers contact the “angry parent” and tell him or her that we represent our client and that we know this is a scam. We also explain that threatening to go to the police unless monetary compensation is paid is an act of extortion under Penal Code 518.
In most instances, this “angry parent” is a very good actor and will talk back to our lawyers. The “angry parent” will say that our client is making a big mistake by not sending the money he or she is asking for. Some of these “angry parents” have told us that their son or daughter has serious emotional problems caused by the interaction between our client and the minor.
Our law firm does not back down. In a high percentage of these situations, our client never hears back from the “angry parent.” We have caught this person in the act. He or she is afraid of being discovered and facing criminal extortion charges. The scammer will move on to the next prey in hopes of getting someone to pay $10,000.
How to Avoid Being Caught Up in an Online Dating Scam
This situation is one that nobody wants to be part of. The threat of facing years in prison or having to pay $10,000 should be taken seriously.
The best way to avoid these scams and the possibility of facing criminal charges under Penal Code 288.3 and Penal Code 288.4 is to ask for proof that any potential romantic partners are 18 years old or older before you arrange any meeting or exchange any pictures.
Demand to see a driver’s license. Ask questions that would make clear whether the person you are talking to is a minor or an adult. If it is clear that he or she is a minor, it is important to stop conversations and terminate the relationship immediately.
Contact the Experienced Sex Crimes Defense Lawyers at Wallin & Klarich Today
If you believe you or someone you know is being targeted by this online dating scam, you should contact a skilled and knowledgeable sex crimes lawyer at Wallin & Klarich today. Our criminal defense attorneys have more than 35 years of experience successfully defending clients facing sex crimes in California. We can help you determine if you are the target of a scam or if you could face charges for speaking to a minor.
With offices in Orange County, Riverside, San Bernardino, Victorville, West Covina, Torrance, Los Angeles and San Diego, our experienced sex crimes defense attorneys are available to help you no matter where you work or live.
Call our law firm today at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877) 466-5245 for a free phone consultation regarding your case. We will be there when you call.