Fitness enthusiasts who left their details on websites advertising for new friends to go running with said they had been inundated by calls and texts from lonely men, looking for more than an exercise partner.
Shirley Dennis, 35, posted her mobile number on an internet forum for Islington residents, asking for “female company to go jogging with, as jogging by yourself can be a bit dangerous”.
She said she wanted someone to motivate her as she was slightly unfit and was looking to meet a new friend.
Ms Dennis, who works for a homeless association, specified that she wanted to meet a woman. However, when contacted by Islington Now she said: “I haven’t really found anyone on the internet.”
“Most people that see it just want to flirt. Guys call and text me and say ‘do you want to meet up?'”
“Because I specifically asked to meet woman I just found it staggering. I wouldn’t meet up with any of these guys; it’s dangerous to meet people you don’t know on the internet. You don’t know what could happen.”
Plagued by men
After another female resident, who asked not be named for fear of getting more calls from men, posted her mobile number on a similar internet forum looking for jogging partners, also said she was being plagued by calls and texts from strange men.
“No one phoned me to say they wanted to go running, I think it was a bit of a silly idea. I just ended up getting loads of calls from men asking for sex. ”
A spokesman for the Metropolitan police said that the trend represented a growing problem with internet safety:
“It’s hard to balance because we don’t want to demonise websites like Gumtree and Movethat, but we don’t want to get people into difficult situations. We wouldn’t advise people to give out their personal details online.”
The police spokesperson said that people could “draw their own conclusions as to the worst case scenarios”.
“The chances are that everything would be fine, but by doing this people are putting themselves at risk.”
Victoria Herman, a North London based personal trainer, said: “Going running with someone is a good way to make a new friend, and a good way to motivate yourself.
It can also be a good way to meet people – I know people who have started off as running buddies and become more than friends. But I don’t think people should be leaving their mobile numbers online – you just don’t know who you might meet.”