How dangerous can online dating be?
Apart from the relatively low-level risk of exposing yourself to a disappointing evening with someone who chews like a goat and couldn’t carry a conversation in a knapsack, the answer is that online dating can be very dangerous. And that means not only physically, but also financially and emotionally. Predators of every stripe troll dating sites, and scams are depressingly rampant.
For many of us, though, online dating is a way of life. So much so that we may have gotten lax in the way we go about it. Some electronic chatting, maybe a phone call or two, and there we are meeting someone face to face in a setting where we have few if any defenses. That we haven’t met up with anyone worse than the aforementioned goat is really just a matter of luck and timing.
By this point, a lot of people are more careful about the way they transact deals on craigslist than the way they meet possible romantic matches online. If that sounds familiar, it’s time to brush up on the rules of safe online dating.
We live in a share-everything age. But until you feel quite ready and comfortable with a potential date, don’t even give out your last name, your address, the name of the company for which you work, the school your child attends, or any other specific information someone can use to track you down. Don’t use a photograph that identifies you or your whereabouts so specifically that you don’t even have to say anything for someone to be able to find you.
Do the Research on Your Potential Date
Sad but true, you can’t believe everything someone tells you. Online profiles are written to put their writers in the best possible light, but people also can flat out lie about matters large and small. Due diligence is called for, so use a phone lookup site that can give you information about a person’s address, marriage, and financial histories as well as any brushes with the law.
You might have to pay a moderate fee for the service, but it’s absolute worth it. If in preliminary conversation you’ve discovered that you know someone in common, call that person to check it out. Don’t assume that anything is the truth until it’s proved to your satisfaction. (Sounds cold, doesn’t it? Well, this is your personal safety we’re talking about. Don’t take it lightly.)
Don’t Put Concerns Aside Because He or She Is Gorgeous
Packaging can be deceptive, so don’t let yourself be carried away with some fantasy. Good-looking con artists know how attractive they are, and they use it to their advantage. Prince or Princess Charming may turn out to be everything they appear, but just as one hopes you’d give a less stunning person a little time to let his or her personality shine through, let the same thing happen with someone who has movie star looks.
Even if you’ve had a written exchange or a chat or two, if you begin to get a bad feeling about someone, block his or her incoming messages and don’t look back. You’re under no obligation to make excuses. If that feels untenably rude to you — and if so, blame the manners your mother taught you — send a one-line note that says something like, “Sorry, this isn’t going to work.”
But don’t let yourself be dragged back into a prolonged discussion of why you’re cutting things off. It should go without saying that if a potential date even touches on a topic having to do with your money (lending it, investing it, or whatever), stop things cold right then and there.
Always, Always Meet in Public the First Time
Of course you know you shouldn’t invite someone to your home for a first or possibly even second date. But also don’t let someone pick you up at work. And don’t you go to his or her home, either. No matter how many online or phone conversations you’ve had, this person is a stranger. As an added precaution, always let someone else know where you’re going, who you’re meeting, and what time you expect to be home.
Keep Your Wits About You
It’s fine to sip a glass of wine while you’re getting to know each other on a first date, but the more you drink the more comfortable you get, and the less you listen with discernment. Drink too much and even a bad idea can start to sound good.
If this hasn’t convinced you to be careful about online dating, you can read more. Having prepared yourself, though, there’s no reason not to go forth and try to meet the person of your dreams. He or she is surely out there somewhere!
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