Dating danger: Experts discuss how to stay safe when searching for love online


Houston woman held captive, assaulted for five days after meeting a man on dating app.

SAN ANTONIO — A troubling incident in Texas is shining light on the potential dangers of online dating.

Police say a woman was brutally assaulted and held hostage for five days by a man she met on a dating app.

After exchanging a few messages on Bumble, the two met on Christmas Eve. A 22-year-old woman told investigators 21-year-old Zachary Mills drove her to his Houston apartment.

The victim said Mills immediately tried having sex with her. When she refused, the physical attacks began. According to court documents, the woman was beaten, sexually assaulted, and held against her will without food or water.

On Dec. 29, she was able to escape when Mills left the apartment. He’s been charged with first-degree aggravated kidnapping and is now out on bond.  

“Crazy story coming out of Houston,” said Chris Feliciano.

Feliciano is known as ‘The Dating Doc.’ The San Antonio matchmaker says finding a love connection can be challenging nowadays.

“Online dating has made it easier and harder,” said Feliciano. “It’s ironic how technology has advanced and disconnected us. Dating apps make it easier to find someone, but it takes away that organic feel. When people think of dating in 2023, it’s so symbiotic with dating apps.”

Feliciano says a few simple steps can reduce your risk of being assaulted.

He recommends vetting the person you matched with by asking meaningful questions and checking their social media accounts.

When you’re ready to meet, make sure loved ones know where you are.

“You can text a friend,” said Feliciano. “You can post a story of where you’re at. Let’s say you got to the place early, you’re posting a story saying, ‘Hey, I am at the Pearl,’ for example. We know [online dating] is efficient and convenient, but there’s inherent risk. Don’t shortcut the process. Have a friend call you if they don’t hear back at a certain time.”

Melanie Shores with Modern Mingle says location is everything.

“You definitely don’t want them to come to your house,” she said. “So, pick a public place and drive your own car. That way you are in control of when and where you are going.”

For singles who are apprehensive of online dating, Shores suggests giving a matchmaking service a try.

“We screen every one of our clients,” said Shores, “We also do a nationwide background check to ensure the safety of all our members. In addition, we provide a lot of fun singles events. Whether that’s a happy hour, dance lessons, a casino night, speed dating.”

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