Online dating sites have plenty of potential advantages. They can help you fit dating into your busy lifestyle and match you with someone who shares your values and interests. However, these sites also come with their dangers. How can you be safe while you’re exploring the online dating scene?
Learn About the Website
Everyone knows about the most popular online dating services, such as eHarmony and Match.com. However, when you perform a simple search for online dating websites, you’ll find unlimited online dating options. Some are specialty sites for people with certain values, religions, or interests, while others cater to the general population. According to one estimate, there are 2,500 online dating services in the United States alone. There may be as many as 8,000 such sites worldwide. Then there are all the websites that don’t call themselves dating websites but still offer opportunities for singles to get to know each other.
All of these online dating options can be a little overwhelming, but you can narrow down which sites are best for you not only by looking at the type of people who frequent the site, but also by scrutinizing the site itself.
Many Internet browsers will indicate in the address bar whether or not a site has been verified as safe. Try to stick to sites that have “https” in the address, as this indicates that the site encrypts its data.
Also keep in mind that dating websites don’t inspect every potential member before allowing them to join.
Know the Signs of Fraud
Online dating fraud saps millions of dollars out of people’s pockets every year. Once you’ve got your online dating profiles up and running, you should be on high alert.
Some red flags to look out for include:
- Someone you’re chatting with expresses deep affection after a short amount of time, before you’ve even met in person. This could be a sign that the person isn’t who he or she claims to be.
- Someone asks for a lot of personal information.
- You detect something is off. It pays to follow your instincts.
- Someone wants to communicate with you off the dating website. Dating websites can monitor communications and flag problem behavior. Someone who wants to get away from that safety net too soon is probably up to something.
Be Cautious About Sharing
No matter how charming someone seems when you’re communicating online, be aware that the person could simply be phishing for information. Until you’re absolutely sure you can trust someone, don’t divulge personal details, such as your address or even your last name. It’s especially important to exercise discretion when you’re filling out your dating profile.
Also, don’t give a lot of information about the times you’re not at home. If someone figures out where you live, you could leave yourself open for theft.
Only share personal information after you’ve met someone in person, and even then you should tread carefully.
Never Give Money
It’s easy to form attachments to other people, and even if one of your online friends seems legit, you should still never, ever, ever give money to someone you haven’t gotten to know in person.
Some people are excellent at telling stories. A person might tell you that he or she needs money in order to come and visit you, or you might hear a woeful tale that makes you feel sorry for the person. Don’t fall for it.
If you refuse to give someone money and that person subsequently harasses you, report the behavior to the dating site and block that person from communicating with you if the website has a blocking option.
Use a Virtual Private Network
Using a virtual private network (VPN) like Hotspot Shield is a good idea whenever you browse the Internet, and that is especially true when you’re dating online. A VPN can disguise your IP address and your ISP, thus keeping you safe from hackers on dating websites that are trying to get your information. A VPN also disguises your location. A VPN will protect your information even from the dating website that you’re using.
Hotspot Shield is the most popular VPN option with over 350 million downloads. Both the free version (ad-supported) and the Elite version will help to safeguard your identity so you have one less thing to worry about when you’re looking for romance. You may download it on your desktop (Mac & Windows) and also have it on the go on your mobile devices (iOS, Android, Windows Phone).
Be a Sleuth
Even if everything seems legitimate about your prospective partners, you still want to sniff around to make sure the person is who he or she claims to be.
Search for the person’s profile picture. You can do this using TinEye, which lets you find out where on the Internet a photo has appeared. You might discover that a photo has been snatched from someone else’s profile on a different website.
Online dating is a great way to connect with other people, but, like any good thing, it comes with its caveats. Exercise caution so your personal information stays safe while you search for your ideal match.