Today online dating is one of the most effective ways of meeting new people and making friends. The huge popularity of internet dating sites is evidence of the fact that people are logging on to find dates, activity partners and even life companions. However the very ease and anonymity afforded by dating websites make online dating vulnerable to certain dangers. Here are a few safety tips that you can keep in mind when using internet dating sites.
TIP: Visit Match.com to browse photo profiles of single women and men looking for dates.
Avoid disclosing personal information too soon
When you start making contacts with potential partners over dating websites, a number of times you might be asked or be tempted to share personal information like your full name or home telephone number. However be extremely careful while disclosing your personal details, especially when you don’t know the person very well. Because of the digital footprints we leave around in this age, just your home phone number would be enough for someone gain access to your home address, income information and even learn the value of your home. Worse still, by knowing your first and last name someone can track down home phone number, find out where you work and what you do. All this personal information in the hands of the wrong person can be quite dangerous so it is always a good idea to avoid disclosing such details until you know the person really well.
Open a separate email account for online dating
Most internet dating sites provide an anonymous email feature which is commonly used to make the first contact with a likable profile on the site. However should you decide to move forward to communication by personal email, be wary of giving him/her your regular email address. This is because armed with your usual email address, a person can search the internet to find out more about you. Instead open a separate free email account with Yahoo, Google or Hotmail and use this one exclusively for online dating. Also remember not to put your full name on the 'From' field when sending an email; rather use another name or just your first name.
Use your cell phone
The next level of communication with a potential partner whom you have met on a dating site usually involves talking over the phone. However avoid giving out your home phone number which can easily be used to find out where you live and even your exact home address. Instead use your cell phone for chatting or sign up with an anonymous phone service. You could even communicate with your partner through Skype without giving out any clues on where you live.
Watch out for married people
While it does not say a lot for the state of marriage in contemporary times, it is true that several people whom you may happen to meet or even like on dating websites could be married. In fact according to a survey conducted by MSNBC a few years ago, as much as 30% of users turned out to be married which is almost a third of all those who use online dating services. While there many married women posing as single on dating sites, a large majority of users who lie about their marital status are men. Some signs that could put you on your guard against married users are a reluctance to post their photos online, being irregular in their contacts with you, calling you or asking to web-chat with you always at set hours or at very odd hours and getting the voice mail whenever you call them on their cell phone. In your meetings too, you can look for clues which can warn you about their marital status. Married partners will be extremely reluctant to talk about their family, home lives or even where they live. Look closely at their ring fingers since it might have a pale mark where the wedding band should be. Finally if despite being with this person for some time, you never get to meet his friends and family it is quite a reliable sign that they may be hiding something important.
Ask for a recent photo
It is perfectly acceptable for you to ask a potential partner if his/her photo is recent. That way you will not only get a better idea of who you are communicating with but when you meet and find a significant difference between the photo and the actual appearance, you can cut the date short. Lying about a photo or a profile is almost always a warning sign that the person is not trustworthy.
Learn to pick out red flags in conversation
As you chat online or talk over the phone with a potential partner whom you have met over a dating website, watch out for red flags during a conversation. These could be inconsistencies between what is written on a profile and what he/she says and hesitations about answering questions about family, work or other people who might be able to vet their identity. Also cue onto hints of undesirable characteristics when you are talking with them – does the person appear to be too controlling, quick to anger or unusually insistent on meeting you in person? If so, then it would be a good idea to tread with caution or cease communication entirely.
Check out the online dating service provider
Overall, it is better to go for paid online dating services since they automatically ensure that only users of certain financial standing can sign in. More importantly however credit card transactions require a basic level of verification which discourages people with suspect identities from signing up. On the other hand it is far easier for dangerous individuals to join free online dating websites since they require no identification. These days even though some dating websites claim to offer ‘background checks’, they are not always foolproof thus allowing wrongdoers to slip through even into paid dating websites. So it is always better to be on your guard while dating online and never to be lulled into a false sense of security.
Finally trust your gut instinct. As you read profiles, respond to emails, have phone conversations and meet in person, your instincts will let you know if all is right or if something feels “out of line”. If it is the latter, back off or go ahead very carefully. After all, your safety is your own responsibility and no amount of thrills is worth risking your life for.