One of the great things about online dating services is the anonymity and physical separation. You can enter a conversation and find out about a potential date behind the safety of your computer monitor. But that same advantage carries a risk – the risk of being conned.
Unfortunately, there are people in the world who use this new tool to harm others. They hide behind that screen, using it as a means of scamming those who just want to find a romantic partner. Flushing them out isn’t easy or fool-proof, but there are several techniques you can use to up your odds against being scammed or worse.
Some people will mis-report their age, gender or other personal information. But an alert reader can often ferret out those falsehoods. The predators that hide online often slip-up on such simple and obvious things. They’ll report experiences they couldn’t possibly have had if they are who they say they are. They’ll show unhealthy interest in someone. They’ll make inconsistent statements about who they are and what they do or want.
The first reaction of most normal, healthy-minded and honest people online – which is the overwhelming majority – is to believe they must be misinterpreting. They give a little too much benefit of the doubt. Avoiding paranoia is good. The world isn’t generally a dangerous place. But being alert and tuned into what’s being said, while exercising appropriate caution, is wise.
Protect yourself further by not revealing too much too soon. Certain personal information should never be revealed to anyone online, unless you’ve met and know them fairly well. Your phone number, address and credit card information top the list.
When things reach the stage of considering a face-to-face meeting, a few phone calls first is a good idea. But either block your phone number from appearing when you call them or invest in a throwaway cell phone. Many services exist to reverse-look-up your address based on your phone number. Take proper precautions.
Never give out your address. You don’t want uninvited visits from someone you don’t yet know well. Never provide anyone with your credit card number, password or other protected financial information. Those items are among the most common means that identity thieves have for using your credit card without authorization.
Don’t tell someone you barely know where you work, either. It may seem like a safer place to meet the first time, and it generally is. But if things don’t work out, or they turn out not to be who they said they were, you don’t want them to know where you’ll be at predictable times.
It may sound romantic for someone to show a passionate interest in you right away. That’s especially attractive to those who have been alone for a while and not meeting anyone interesting or exciting. But apart from the high odds of such a person being too needy, that can be just another way to lure the unwary.
‘Trust, but keep your eyes open,’ is a very wise old saying. Heed the advice.