Internet Dating: An Online and Offline Safety Guide

Internet Dating An Online and Offline Safety Guide

Internet dating is here to stay, but so are the people taking advantage of it. There are plenty of charming people out there looking to swindle online daters, or worse. You need to know how to spot danger before it causes you harm.

Staying Safe Online:

1. Keep Your Money in Your Wallet

The most common target of scammers involves your wallet. Under no circumstances should you send money to anyone you meet on a dating website. There are hundreds of reasons and sob stories a scammer may have to need money from you, but in most cases they'll try to get you to make a wire transfer, due to how difficult it is to reverse the transaction.

Your financial information should stay private. Don't send it out to people who you haven't met in person. There are some very charming people out there who might get your trust fairly quickly, so keep your guard up. Generally your financial information should never even come up as a topic when talking to a potential date. Whenever the discussion goes to your money, leave the conversation.

2. Keep Personal Information Private

Sending out your full name, email, and home address might seem harmless, but you never know who's actually chatting with you online. It is best to err on the side of caution and keep a certain level of anonymity while you're looking for a date. Use the private mailbox on your dating website to keep your identity secret until you decide that you're ready to reveal it to your potential partner.

You should also be wary of accessing dating websites on shared or public computers such as libraries or internet cafes. Many browsers actually save your password information if that's the default setting. If you must share your computer, make sure that you clear any and all passwords saved on the browser.

3. Stay Alert

Online dating should be a fun experience, but there are people who can and will ruin the experience for you if you let them. There are a few things to watch out for when you're roaming the Internet looking for a date.

If they:

  • Ask for money for ANY reason
  • Tell or hint at a hard luck story or need for money early-on.
  • Have a perfect, model-looking or over-seductive photo
  • Ask you to deposit check for them. They send you a counterfeit check, then need the money sent back to them. A week later your bank finds it counterfeit, you owe them the money, and you are in legal trouble.
  • Are in the military and need your money for special phone service to call you, or for a leave to come see you, and have you call their fake commander for permission.
  • Are coming to see you and at last minute something terrrible happens and need your money to get them out of the emergency.
  • Will visit you but first need money for plane, train, or gas. After you send money, they never come.
  • Are stuck in a country and need your money/help to get them out.
  • Want to send you gifts or products and need your address and you to pay fees to fake shipping company for it. No gift will come.
  • Send link to website to view nude photos or webcam of them where they ask for your credit card and personal info or give you viruses.
  • Say you won a lottery and need to pay fees to collect winnings, and asks for personal info.
  • Want to use your photo on billboards, needs your personal and bank info to deposit payments to you.
  • Don't come here often, or can't upload photo to site and needs your email address to send you one. If they can email it to you, they can email it to site staff to add for them.

This is by no means a comprehensive list of things that should raise red flags. Exercise caution and common sense when interacting with people online. Immediately block people who raise these red flags and report them to the dating site where you found them.

Staying Safe Offline:

Online dating doesn't stay online forever. After all, you joined the dating site to meet someone and when you do, eventually you're going to want to take things to the next level and meet them in person. And that's a good thing.. but reaching that point is no reason to throw caution to the wind. There are a number of things to keep in mind when transitioning to a real-life relationship.

1. Take your Time and only Meet with Someone You Know

When you meet with someone in person, you're exposing yourself to potential physical harm. Make sure that anyone you meet with is someone you have gotten to know. Don't be rushed. Spend time using site features to ask questions and talking back and forth. Use search engines to find out more information about them or look at information made available by government services and offices.

2. Meet and Stay in a Public Place for Your First Meeting

Public places are safe and full of witnesses. Feel free to leave if you don't feel safe. Don't be in a hurry to go to their house or to bring them to yours, no matter how comfortable you are with them.

3. Let Friends and Family Know Where You're Going

As an additional security measure, you should make sure that someone knows where you are at all times. If the worst should happen, at least your friends and family will know your last location. Should you decide to move the date somewhere else, tell someone. Keep people updated.

4. Stay Sober

Getting intoxicated will severely impair your decision making abilities, which can lead to you bringing them home or going to a private place with someone who may amount to be a complete stranger you've only read about.

5. Know the Area

Wherever you do decide to meet up, it should be a place that you are familiar with. Make sure that you can commute or drive to and from the area, just in case things turn sour.

While you should err on the side of caution, you should also keep an open mind. The vast majority of people are not out to get you. If you really aren't comfortable with Internet dating due to the unique dangers presented by anonymity, consider putting your online relationships on hold until you have a better grasp of it. Use other site features to meet new people and have fun making not-for-date friends while you get acquainted with meeting people in a safe way. You don't need to date online until you're ready, and even then, only if you want to.

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