Online dating is a great way to reach out and find new people from all over, but as with anything you need to make sure that you're not putting yourself at risk. Sad to say, but not everyone out there is genuine in their search for a partner, so taking some time to think about your safety is time well spent. Despite our best efforts, you may find people online are not always who they claim to be. Their reasons for this can vary. Some people are just curious about online dating and have no intention of meeting up - either through being shy or already being in a relationship.
Unfortunately there are also predators out there who may try to use online dating sites for criminal purposes. This might come in the form of people trying to capture personal information about you to steal your identity so that they can commit fraud. Alternatively you may find someone trying to get you to send them money - claiming to need it to travel or to settle debts. They can be very persuasive, and a large number of people every year end up both heartbroken and out of pocket.
There are a few things you can do to minimise the risks and ensure that online dating remains a fun way to meet people:
- Don't post personal phone numbers or other information that can be used to trace your location.
- Set up a new email address that doesn't use your real name that you only use for dating. Popular and reputable services exist such as Gmail, Hotmail or Yahoo! that can be accessed through any device that can run a web browser.
- When you pick your user name, try to use one that doesn't give away anything personal about you.
- Don't let people pressure you into giving away more about yourself than you're comfortable telling. Of course there's a bit of give and take in any conversation, but trust your instincts.
- Think long and hard before taking your clothes off when you're in front of a webcam. Blackmail attempts against people as a result are not unheard of.
As a general rule of thumb, someone who is as sincere as you in their interest is going to be just as concerned about your safety and won't object to you taking care of yourself.
Most people who sign up to dating sites are genuine, but it never hurts to keep your wits about you. Think about it just as you would if you went to a bar, keep a bit of mystery about you until you get to know them and you won't go far wrong.