Millions of people have used online dating and I happen to be one of them. In fact, not only did I meet my husband online, but many of my clients are still going strong in relationships that started on an internet dating site. In my opinion, online dating is not only a great way to meet new people, but a safe way as well. However, there is, unfortunately, the occasional fraud case that reminds us we need to be safe and cautious when meeting someone online, just as we should be when we meet someone new in person.
I often hear from daters who are nervous about putting too much information in their profile, or giving away data that might compromise their security—and rightly so. However, Michael Fertik, CEO of Reputation.com, an online reputation management company, emphasizes that online daters need to think about their online identity overall before creating an account. “Be careful what you share on social networks. Your entire internet presence is your profile…your actual dating profile is just the tip of the iceberg.” Fertik says. “It’s up to you to remove the risk before there is risk.”
It’s a good idea to consult with a company that specializes in cleaning up your online identity before communicating on a dating site. Don’t leave anything up to chance that might turn someone off or make sensitive personal information more discoverable than it needs to be. A large percentage daters use online tools such as Google to screen potential dates with some going as far as researching their dates’ ex-flames as well! With that in mind, here are my tips for protecting yourself for that face-to-face date to further your positive online-dating experience:
#1 Always meet them there. Until you get to know and trust someone you meet online, it’s always a good idea to meet your date in a public place.
#2 Phone a friend. Make sure at least one person knows the name and phone number of the person you’re meeting and where you’ll be with them.
#3 Set a drink maximum. I know that after two drinks my decision-making ability is compromised, so I made a rule that one drink was my max. Everyone’s tolerance is different, but on a first date you want to make sure you stay clear-headed.
#4 Stick to one location. After a few drinks we sometimes become more uninhibited. A ride to grab some dessert might sound like a good idea, but it actually opens you up to danger. If the relationship has long-term potential, save the second activity for the second date.
#5 Trust your gut. If something tells you that this guy or gal is not right, don’t second guess it. It might not be today or tomorrow, but eventually your gut will prove to be right. Our animal instincts prevail in dating, so if your antennae go up when you’re with someone, beware— they might actually be a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
#6 Talk on the phone first. If they want to know a lot of details about where you live or work, or they seem off in some way, abort the mission. If you don’t like them on the phone, you probably won’t like them in person anyhow, so just save yourself some time.
#7 Test them. Michael Fertik of Reputation.com recommends that, before meeting, you see if there are any holes in your date’s profile. “Ask yourself if the person online looks and feels like the one you’re talking to,” Fertik says. If they write about loving a particular sport, ask them some questions about it and see if they know their stuff. If you suspect that they might not live in the area, throw out location details they should know. If they don’t pick up the bait on your test questions, you don’t want to pursue things further.
#7 Meet face-to-face. There are people who never intend to meet in person. These could be people who have something to hide or someone who intends to scam you down the road. If you meet face-to-face, it’s hard to continue to lie about anything untruthful in their profile. And most online daters who want a serious relationship are not going to have outrageous lies in their profiles because they know if you become an item, you’ll find out the truth eventually.
#8 Never give anyone money. This is the oldest trick in the book whether we’re talking about phone scams, email scams or face-to-face swindles. The only payment you should be making is to the online dating site. If a date is asking for your credit card number for any reason, they are probably a “Nigerian prince” and you should definitely say, “No!”
Online dating can be perfectly safe and very effective if you follow these simple guidelines (read up on JDate’s safety tips here). Also, using common sense helps to steer clear of those with nefarious intentions. Like any popular medium, crooks will always find a way to tap into a mass market of people, but armed with the right information, you can control your own safety.