For most people trying online dating, the most unpleasant situation in store will be a dull date. However, that is not always the case.
The truth is, online dating is about as safe as any other type of dating performed with perfect and near-perfect strangers: most strangers are likely to be perfectly harmless, but sadly, not all. It pays to avoid any potentially hazardous situations until you know for sure the person you are meeting is OK.
Self-defence instructors usually say that the best defence is never to get into a dangerous situation in the first place.
You wouldn’t walk alone at night in a bad part of town, waving a wallet full of cash at potential robbers – that’s common sense.
No amount of martial arts would help you more than the simple act of avoiding the area altogether.
Similarly, the virtual dating world has its own dark alleys and potential robbers, but
once you familiarise yourself with both the danger signs and the basic precautions, you can keep perfectly safe.
Make the following rules a part of your online dating routine and you will hopefully never experience any of the situations that have made them necessary.
When choosing and joining a dating site or app
- Choose a reputable site / app –
never give money to a site that won’t let you search its database for free. The industry standard is ‘try before you buy’.
- Make sure to read the terms and conditions of the site when you sign up so you know exactly what it is you’re signing.Many sites treat your membership like a magazine subscription: they will keep charging you until you tell them to stop. Make sure you know if this is the case and what you need to do to cancel.
While dating online
Protect your privacy by maintaining control of personal details such as your full name, telephone number, place of work, home address and even your email address. Never list any of those in your public profile
Work or home address
Having someone turn up unwanted and uninvited at your work or home can be quite disconcerting, even if the person is fairly harmless. To
avoid such incidents, it’s generally agreed that you shouldn’t give out your address
until you’ve met someone in person at least once, if not more than once.
Your full name, together with other details you may happen to give out (general area of residence, industry you work in, university you go to, etc.) can be enough for a determined person to locate your physical address. Avoid choosing usernames that reveal your full name and don’t reveal your last name to people you are unsure of. Don’t worry about serious dating sites that ask for your full name when you register, rather than a nickname. They won’t display your full name to others. If in doubt, take a look at how others are displayed on the site before you sign up there.
Obviously, if you’re on a dating site, you will want to communicate with people. Sooner or later your communications will take you off site. Giving out your email address is generally considered fine, unless it’s your work address or an address that contains your full name.
Many people sign up to a free email account (hotmail, gmail, etc.) and use that to communicate with people they meet on dating sites, this way, everything is kept separate. Similarly, a mobile phone number is better to give out than a landline number, because it cannot be used to trace your address.
Watch out for the danger signs , most are pretty obvious
Things that are too good to be true
If a gorgeous young underwear model is dating on your site and says she is looking for a man to love her, ‘age and looks not important’, it may seem like you have struck gold, but stop and think for a minute , is this really likely?
That man may say he’s a rich city trader who moonlights as a male model and an actor, but is that really the case?
If the person in question then declares his/her love without ever having met you in person , that’s another sign things are not as they should be. It may be time to engage the help of the site’s support team and ask whether this person is a scammer.
People asking for money
The net is full of scammers, but their ultimate goal , scamming people out of money , is exactly what makes them so easy to spot and avoid. Scammers use various sob stories to try and get money out of unsuspecting victims. If the person you’ve recently met online starts asking you for money, that’s a sign to leave, or at least have them checked out by the site’s support team.
Potential stalker material
People who express their love to you too soon or get upset when you want to end a conversation or speak to other people may well turn out to be overly clingy at best and stalkers at worst. This is especially true for those who act this way before (or shortly after) you meet in person for this first time.
Abusive outbursts, even online ones, are generally a very bad sign, even when followed by an immediate apology.
Both men and women can exhibit these unwholesome qualities and if something makes you feel ill at ease, trust your instincts and move on.
When meeting people in person
- Meet in a public, busy place, preferably one that does not require you to walk along a dark street to get back to your bus stop/station.
- Consider having your date during daytime or even bringing a friend with you on your first date if it makes you feel more relaxed.
- Always arrange your own transport to and from the date. Never let a man pick you up at your home and never accept a lift home if the date hadn’t worked out. Politely refuse and make your own way back.
- Tell a friend or family member that you are going on a date and arrange to check in with them at some point (usually by phone or text, though some people actually arrange for their “wingman” to sit nearby or “run into them” during the date) to tell them everything is fine.
- Be careful of leaving your drink unattended , cases of women having their drinks spiked with date rape drugs are rare, but they do sometimes happen.
- If you feel uncomfortable or threatened in any way, no matter how insignificant or silly it may seem , trust your instincts, make your excuses and leave. Don’t be afraid of making a scene or offending your date if necessary , your safety must always come first.This section is particularly important for women, for obvious reasons, which isn’t to say men shouldn’t pay attention as well.
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