Online dating is a great way to meet new singles. The majority of people you will meet are, like yourself, just looking to make new friends, meet that special someone, or have a bit of fun. However, the internet can be a dangerous place if you are not careful. The World Wide Web can attract all types. Most are good, honest people, but others are not so good, and not so honest. Fortunately, this is only a very small percentage and the advice given in this section is meant to make you aware of this possibility, what to look out for, and precautions you can take to avoid unpleasant situations.
One of the most attractive things about using an on-line dating service is the fact that there is a certain level of anonymity. Online dating safety should be one of the first things you consider, and the fact that no one knows your true identity is a big plus.
Unfortunately, it is the same anonymity which prevents dating sites from thoroughly screening each member. Most free services collect your e-mail address and that’s all. It is very possible that the person you have gotten to know, and are chatting with on a regular basis, is not really who they say they are. Actually, you have no way to verify anyone’s identity on the web.
If you are a member of a pay dating site, things are a little different. Most of the members will have signed up using a credit card. Because of this, their accountability increases and members are more likely to behave themselves. Besides, if the members are paying good money for a dating service, they are probably more serious about meeting someone, and less likely to be there “just for kicks.”
No matter how you look at it, there is no “safe” date. Even meeting someone in a more traditional way (club, etc) does not guarantee any degree of safety. The only advantage in a face to face meeting is that you can make a judgment call before you even begin to make contact. Talking to someone face to face and observing their body language will give you a greater feel for what that person is all about.
When you participate in on-line dating, you must be much more cautious than with a live meeting. The internet is not safe; therefore you must take charge of your own security.
The following tips are what you should be doing, at a minimum, to ensure your safety when meeting people on-line.
1. Never disclose any personal information about yourself until you are ready. Even revealing partial information can lead to trouble, as there are some very cleaver people who are very good at filling in the blanks.
2. Never feel pressured into revealing more information than you feel comfortable with. Do not feel that you must “please” the other person. If they are truly genuine, they will allow you to progress at your own pace. Your only concern should be your own safety, period!
3. Be wary of sudden flashes of anger or jealousy, even if followed by a quick apology. This actually applies to online and face-to-face encounters and is a huge red flag.
4. Be wary of someone being too secretive, or of someone whose story keeps changing. Write things down if you need to. Don’t overlook these obvious signs.
5. If you get to the point where you both want to communicate by phone, get their number and call them. Don’t give them your number. Use call block, or a public telephone.
6. If you feel as though you would like to meet someone face-to-face, do so in a very public place. If you have not disclosed any personal information yet, you can have a “clean” out if it doesn’t go well.
7. Never meet with someone in a secluded place for the first time. This can be extremely dangerous. Tell a friend where you are going and try to have a cell phone with you. Keep your wallet or purse with you at all times. Have your friend phone you at a specific time so that you have an excuse to leave, if need be.
8. If you are meeting someone for the first time, do so during the day. A coffee or lunch is much more casual than an evening date, and things can seem much clearer during the day; especially if there is no alcohol involved.
9. Move slowly and get to know the person on-line, then maybe over the phone, before suggesting a live meeting. There is no need to be hasty – if they can’t wait and respect your decision, then it could be a sign to move on.
10. If someone is harassing you in any way, contact the website administration with details and the member’s profile name. Any reputable site should have a link on the front page for such instances. Furthermore, they should act on all complaints submitted to them.
11. Do not respond to any requests for any personal or financial information on the website (i.e. Internal Mail, Instant Messenger, and Chat). Only the website administrator will have your real email and should contact you using that address if they need to. Do not respond to any commercial offers or sales type messages while on the dating site. Do not respond to any requests for money. The messages won’t be from the site’s admin, and could be malicious in nature. Report any unusual requests, or if you receive any commercial advertising, use the abuse link that should be on the front page. Otherwise, contact the site officials through the contact page.
Most dating sites are designed for anonymous mail, chat and messaging. This is your protection. No matter how bad things get with another member, you can simply ignore them and move on. They will have no choice but to accept this. They will never know your true identity, and this brings with it a sense of security. Once you have disclosed your personal information to someone, you have lost this security and you cannot get it back. You will be on your own.
A good rule of thumb is to not disclose your personal information until you are absolutely sure you know the person well enough. A phone call or a public meeting might be a good way to start before you disclose any private info.
By following these online dating safety tips, you are ensuring that you manage to benefit from one of the greatest resources ever available to the single person, while avoiding all the danger that can accompany it.