Not Taking Chances: Online Dating Safety
About 120,000 marriages every year started with online dating, that is according to Online Dating Magazine in 2007. Meeting possible love matches online is attracting more and more people. In the Pew Internet and American Life Project Report (released in March 2006), 31% of American adults have stated that they have used an online dating service.
But online dating is not without any risks. There are already numerous people who have fallen victims of online scammers. Scammers would often enter legitimate sites and befriend people, gaining their trusts. Eventually, they would secure enough personal information for them to take advantage, ask for money or worse steal your personality.
The online dating sites may say that they are doing background checks on their members. However, a background check cannot be performed that easily since there are different laws about this in different states. This is another reason why you should still be on guard when entering an online dating site.
Whenever you are entering any online dating sites, there are some precautions that you would have to keep in mind.
• Choose a good and reputable online dating site
It would be better to stick with paid online dating services. Free online dating sites are easier to access, even by dangerous people. Be aware if a particular dating site has privacy policies. These policies ensure that your personal information is safe from spammers and hackers. Also, if the site looks disorganized and lacks accurate information, then it may be better to visit other sites.
• Avoid giving too much information.
Be cautious when talking or chatting in online dating sites. Information like full name and home phone number can be used track your address and other personal information. Scammers, of course, would not ask for your social security number directly but there are ways for them to find out.
You could use a free email account (Yahoo!, Hotmail or Gmail) which is different from your regular email address. When giving out phone numbers, it is safer to use your cell phone number or you could even have the calls in Skype or in Yahoo!. If a person makes you uncomfortable or you noticed some strange behaviour and inconsistencies, then you could stop communicating with the person.
• Take it slow
You do not have to be in a hurry when setting the first meeting. Get to know each other first, through emails and calls. When communicating with emails, pay attention to the content of their messages. Are they answering any questions or they just rant on about themselves? Scammers would usually create a standard email which he may simultaneously use in different online sites. Another warning sign is when you cannot get them in the other end of the phone line. The number may be unreachable or blocked by the cellphone user.
If a meeting is already arranged, make sure that you would be meeting in a public place. You could tell some friends that you are meeting the person and also provide the necessary details of the meeting. Preferably, drive or go to the meeting place or location, alone. Avoid asking somebody or the date to pick you up and drop you off, they would know immediately where your house is.
There is no rush in online dating. It is important to take your time and get to know the person you are talking to. Do everything according to your own pace. Don’t be afraid to report suspicious users. Site administrators would be able to perform their duties well if they are properly informed.