With the help of modern technology, we live in a digital age where meeting new people is just a click away. Online dating opportunities are everywhere, ranging from casual hookup sites like Tinder, to obscure niche sites like FarmersMeet.

We tend to feel safe behind the protection of our computer screen. The very nature of the internet provides some form of anonymity, as we are shielded behind avatars and clever user names. But we can leave ourselves vulnerable by giving out too much personal information.

According to statistics, roughly 4 out of 5 people have tried online dating in some form, with the most activity during the holidays. Aside from a few bad dates, most are no worse for the wear, but there are exceptions. Personal ads have provided criminals of all degrees a chance to find and prey on victims from the comfort of their own home.

So, in honor of the upcoming Hallmark Holiday, here’s a list of some of the top classified ads killers, also known as “Lonely Hearts Killers.”

RAYMOND FERNANDEZ AND MARTHA BECK

Fernandez and Beck were a notorious serial killer duo from the late 40’s. It’s reported that they met through a classified ad, which Fernandez used to con women out of their money and valuables. Beck was one of his marks, until Fernandez realized that she was willing to do whatever it took to be with him. Beck abandoned her children and the two departed on a shocking and disturbing journey, filled with rumors of murder, black magic, and depraved sexual acts.

Martha Beck – Mugshot

Beck often posed as Fernandez’s sister while the two met their intended victims, selected by their responses to Fernandez’ personal ads. Beck’s jealousy was rumored to be the main source of their crimes escalating from robbery to murder. Although it is unknown how many murders the two committed, their final three proved to be their undoing. Fernandez met a well-off woman in her sixties, Janet Fay. The two were engaged, and it was reported that when Beck saw the two in bed together, she smashed Fay’s skull in with a hammer while Fernandez strangled her.

Next they met a single mother, and the two travelled to Wyoming to live with her. Within days Fernandez drugged the mother, Delphine Downing, while Beck assaulted her daughter. They later shot Delphine and drowned the young girl, and were caught by the police when a neighbor called after hearing screams.

Their trial, incarceration, and execution turned into a media frenzy.  Beck and Fernandez claimed their story was a tragic tale of love on one day, and the next they hated one another. Rumors of voodoo, black magic, and perverse sexual acts were reported in the papers, furthering the public’s disgust.  Both were sentenced to death for the murder of Janet Fay, and were consecutively executed via electric chair in 1951.

HARVEY CARIGNAN

Very little is known about Harvey Carignan’s early life, but his first recorded attack took place in the late 1940’s, while he was stationed in Alaska for the Army. He confessed to raping a local girl, and was sentenced to be hanged, but the ruling was reversed due to a technicality. He was released after serving his sentence.

Carignan married twice, but neither marriage lasted due to his sullen behavior and irritable tendencies. His first known murder was that of a young woman, Kathy Miller, who answered an advertisement for a job. She disappeared after her interview with Carignan, and her naked body was found bludgeoned to death with a hammer during the investigation. Police named him as a person of interest, but he was never charged.

He moved to Minneapolis, where he kidnapped and assaulted several young women during the 60’s and 70’s, aged thirteen and up.

Harvey Carignan – Mugshot

Carignan used his signature hammer, to not only beat his victims, but as a tool of rape. Upwards of 7 young women were murdered or otherwise victimized by him during this time.

Police from several states where Carignan had been eventually made the connection, aided by women he had left alive. Investigators found a map of the U.S. and Canada, which had over 175 markers on it, among his things after his arrest. Some were believed to be places where Carignan had worked and others indicated the location of his known crimes. Several marks were the location of other crimes that occurred against women, believed to be his doing.

In February of 1975 he was tried, and entered a plea of insanity, stating his belief that he was receiving messages from God to commit these heinous acts. There was no death penalty at the time, and Harvey Carignan received 120 years in prison on two counts of murder, one count of attempted murder, and 30 years for rape.

Carignan is around 87 years of age, and still alive in prison. Some sources claim he is required to serve only 40 of his 150 year sentence, which could mean his release as early as this month.

ROBERT JOE LONG

Robert Joe Long, also known as Bobby Joe Long, is another serial killer and rapist that used classified ads to find and contact several of his victims. He claimed a car accident and successive head injury to be the cause of his abhorrent sexual tastes and murderous behaviors.

Robert Joe Long – Inmate Photo

While living in Florida after his accident, he perused the classified ads for small appliances and other items for sale. He would visit the seller’s home during the day, hoping the man of the house would be out. If the woman alone, he would ask to be invited in under the pretense of using the bathroom, and proceed to rape and torture her.

He lured his victims to his car, where he bound and molested them on the way to his apartment. He knocked some of them unconscious, and continued the torture in his apartment. Long took sadistic pleasure from humiliating these women, and dumped their bodies in grotesque ways, often splaying their legs wide open in a final act of degradation. His method of killing varied from slitting his victims’ throats’, to strangulation or bludgeoning.

Bobby Joe Long was arrested on November 16, 1984 for the kidnapping and rape of Lisa McVey, 17. He blindfolded and released her after performing various sexual acts, and she later identified him to police. He has appealed his death sentencing several times, and is currently still alive in a Florida prison.

PHILLIP MARKOFF

Philip Markoff, known as the “Craigslist Killer,” lived a quiet upper-middle class childhood. He attended college and medical school in New York, and was engaged  to be married to a fellow student, Megan McAllister.

Philip Markoff – On Trial

The couple moved to Boston in 2009 to finish school, and were present during the famous murder of call girl/masseuse Julissa Brisman. Brisman reportedly posted an ad on Craigslist for massage services, and was set to meet a client at the Copley Marriot of Boston on April 14, 2009. Julissa was found unconscious with multiple gunshot wounds, and died en route to the hospital. Police believed that her death was a robbery gone wrong, and launched an intense investigation.They discovered another victim had been attacked four days prior to Brisman, in a different hotel. She placed an ad on Craigslist offering lap dances, and while she waited for her potential client in the hotel room, was bound and robbed, unable to identify her attacker.

Two days after Brisman’s murder another exotic dancer with a Craigslist ad was attacked. She posted services for exotic dancing, and was robbed at gun point in a Rhode Island hotel. Police believed that the two attacks and murder were all committed by the same person.

Hotel surveillance revealed a tall, young, blonde man in all three cases, and Markoff’s phone records and e-mail history proved that he was in contact with all of the victims. He was put under surveillance, and arrested while leaving the state with his fiancée, allegedly on their way to popular Foxwoods Casino in Connecticut.

Hotel Surveillance Photo

McAllister stood by her betrothed for some time, claiming that the media had it wrong and her fiancée was innocent. Family members, friends, and those that knew Philip Markoff claimed their shock and outrage, stating that he never could’ve done such horrifying things.

Markoff was suspended from school, and his arrest caused a media frenzy. His trial date got pushed back by the judge, and while Megan McAllister had previously stood by him, she reportedly visited him a few months into his arrest and broke things off. After the breakup he allegedly tried committing suicide numerous times. His final attempt was successful, and Markoff died in prison from blood loss via severed arteries on August 15, 2010.

Philip Markoff never admitted to any of the crimes of which he was accused, and an investigation was launched after his death about the condition of Massachusetts prisons.

DON’T BE A VICTIM

While their methods of killing and selecting victims differ, these serial killers all have one thing in common; using personal or classified ads to choose their victims. Exercise caution and use common sense when chatting with people online,

Here’s a comprehensive list of internet safety tips for both children and adults, and is worth checking out.