How Can I Date Online Safely?

Online dating is a great way to meet people you would never have come into contact with otherwise. When done cautiously, online dating may even be safer than many ways people meet in person. Millions of people have used internet dating services to have fun and to find a lifelong partner.

As with all dating, you need to be careful and take steps to protect yourself. With a few basic precautions, you can significantly reduce your risks and have rewarding online dating experiences.

  • Select a reputable online dating service.

You want a service that respects your information and keeps it confidential, offers features that match your needs, and has a sizable database of members of the kind you are interested in. Some online dating sites cater to seniors, others to people in their 20’s. Some are faith based, interest based, and so on. To check out dating sites:

  1. Carefully read their privacy statement. You only want to use a service will never share your personal information with anyone else on the site unless you give explicit permission. You also want to avoid any service that will sell or share your information with advertisers or other companies.

  2. Popularity is a good indicator that a dating service is keeping members happy, be sure to read user reviews and try a few to compare services. Most offer one-month free trials so you can get a feel for the site. Look online at reviews and comparisons of the sites you are interested in.

  • Carefully consider the image you want to project on the dating site.

Stay consistent by keeping your screen name, descriptions, and photos in line with what you want to say about yourself. If you use provocative user names and photos, expect that the responses will be different than if you use more conservative choices.

  • Don’t make yourself instantly identifiable.

This ensures that if you run into someone who’s offensive, creepy, or less than truthful, you remain safe.

Top ten safety tips for online dating

  1. Don’t reveal anything in your profile that would compromise your safety and allow someone to find you, such as where you live or work.

  2. Use the service’s messaging system rather than your personal email or social networking account, or your phone number. As your trust grows, you can switch to standard e-mail and then phone conversations before you meet in person. This way if you want to cut off contact, they don’t have the means to harass you.

  3. Don’t include your full name, phone number or specific location information (home or work) in your profile, or during early communications with others.

  4. Be realistic. Read the profiles of others with skepticism.

    • As you correspond or talk on the phone, ask questions, seek direct answers, and note any inconsistencies.

    • Trust your instincts. If the person feels dominating, is pressuring to deepen a relationship faster than is comfortable to you, or feels ’off’ in some way. Stop and block contact. No explanation is required.

    • If you see any danger signs like displays of anger, an attempt to control you, signs of jealousy, they act disrespectfully towards you or others, or there is any physically threatening or other unwelcome behavior, stop contact. If you feel the person represents a risk to others on the dating site, notify the company through their contact functionality.

  5. Make the first several dates with anyone safe.

    • Keep them short. Arrange to meet your date in a public, place that will have many people nearby when you meet. It could be a restaurant or coffee shop or outdoors where many people will be around. Avoid secluded places such as unpopulated parks or isolating activities like hikes. Never meet your date at your place or theirs until you have had several successful experiences with the person.

    • Have your own transportation, you do not want to get into a strangers car, hop on their motorcycle, or put them in control of your destination.

    • Make sure a friend or family member knows where you’ll be going, and schedule times to check by cell phone - do not go outside your cellphone coverage.

    • If the person who meets you doesn’t look like their photo, leave. If they aren’t honest you don’t want to find out what else they may have lied about. Report any dishonesty to the dating service.

    • Resist introducing children until you are comfortable the person will be in your life for a long time - and never leave them alone with your child or children.

  6. You can walk away at any time.

    If your conversation, date or meeting raises makes you uncomfortable or raises red flags leave. You have the right to walk away without stopping to explain, apologize, or reply to a follow-up e-mail. Most dating sites have a feature that allows you to block the person from contacting you if you want communication to stop.

  7. Slow and steady beats headlong rushing when it comes to relationships.

    People rarely regret being extra careful when making important decisions, but we all know someone who acted too quickly and regretted it. Stay vigilant; with more time, you’ll be likely to spot any inconsistencies and realize if things don’t add up. While the person may truly be the right fit for you, keep in mind that building trust and credibility are also key predatory tools. Anyone worth dating will give you the time and space you need to feel comfortable with your choices.

  8. Report any scammers or other predators to the service immediately.

    Quality dating sites commit resources to managing their services and respond quickly to reports of abuse, but no site can catch everything no matter how much prescreening they do. Use the tools provided to report members who don’t behave appropriately, and if your concerns aren’t dealt with satisfactorily, switch sites.

  9. If your date asks for a loan or any financial information, report it.

    Any request for money is a scam, no matter how sad the "hard luck" story. If con artists couldn’t come up with convincing stories, they wouldn’t make money. Scam artists are pros at manipulation of your pocketbook, your information, and sadly, sometimes your heart.

  10. If you at any time feel threatened in any way, contact your local law enforcement office.Do not wait until actual violence occurs or it could be too late.

    Most people will have wonderful experiences with online dating; some will have experiences that they need to nip in the bud. You will have better experiences if you stay in charge, protect yourself, and have fun.

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