Tuesday, January 13, 2015

9 Tips for Safe Online Dating

Today, singles and looking for special someone, more and more search for their dates online. If you happen to be a single senior who is looking for love or companionship, senior dating sites should be considered as great places to meet your match.

Online dating is attractive for several reasons: the pool of eligible partners is large; it offers an alternative to relying on family and friends as matchmakers; people live longer and are more likely to seek new relationships later in life; and the increase in broadband access to the Internet has expanded the potential market. Baby boomers are the fastest growing demographic in the world of online dating, perhaps due to increasing computer literacy. Dating sites that serve cultures where arranged marriages are the norm have given singles a greater chance to participate in the process of finding a family-approved mate.

However, because the internet provides such anonymity, it unfortunately also provides a place where financial predators, con artists and other dangerous villains wreak havoc on innocent online daters like you.  To avoid finding yourself in a potentially harmful situation, before signing up to a senior dating site (or any other dating site, as a matter of fact), be sure to arm yourself with the following safety tips to ensure a safe and successful experience.

1. Choose dating site with good security reputation

Do some research before you sign up to a dating site. New sites are appearing all the time, and although you can find all manner of specialist and novelty sites, sometimes it pays to go with a well-established dating site that you have heard of. It makes sense:  if a dating site can afford a TV advert, they must have plenty of members and you are likely to find a higher number of potential dates than you might do on a niche site. Ask around too – talk to friends who have dated online before and see who they would recommend, and check out any reviews and recommendations online.

One thing many people do not realize is that a lot of dating sites are linked, and within their terms of service is a clause that allows them to share your personal details with their partner sites. This could result in your details being shared with a site you are not happy about having a profile on.

Read the dating site's terms of service and privacy policy. This may be difficult, because many privacy policies seem to be written to be as confusing as possible. Here is what to look for:
* The site should provide online security – HTTPS.
* It should delete data after you close the account.
* It should be upfront about sharing your personal information with other members.
* It should be upfront about who else gets to see your data.
* It should indicate whether the dating site shares your e-mail address with third parties.
* Does it give you a chance to opt out?
* Does it provide the name of a real human being to contact if you have questions?
* How does the site lower the chances of abuse? How does the site handle abuse if it happens?
* Do the terms of service allow explicit content?
* Does the site review webcams, chats and videos?
* Does the site run all users through a registered sex offender database such as SSP Blue's RSO SAFE?
* Can you be chosen as the "profile of the day"?
* Does it reveal your photo only to members or also for online advertising?
* Does the site provide users with tips on how to navigate the site safely and successfully, to avoid predators and scammers?
* Does the site provide an emergency phone number?

Be skeptical about promises of full anonymity. Researchers have found it is entirely possible to re-identify records that have been anonymized.

2. Keep personal information personal

When composing your online dating profile and communicating with fellow senior singles, electronically or in person, never give out any personally identifying details that you wouldn’t feel comfortable with in the hands of a stranger.  This includes material like your last name, home address, phone number, financial info or access to your accounts. You should never feel pressured to share more than you wish; guard all personal information until you are ready.

Here are few tips for you to consider:
* Share photographs with caution. Digital photos have attached metadata such as where and when the image was captured that can be used maliciously. You can scan a photo before sending it and remove the metadata from a JPEG image.
* Consider getting a free e-mail account specifically for online dating purposes (from Gmail, Yahoo, Microsoft, etc.). This will allow you to reveal information about yourself gradually and appropriately. Better yet, if your dating service offers a blind e-mail service, you should take advantage of this option. Use an anonymous phone service to chat via your mobile.
* When it is time to move your communication to the next level (talking on the phone), never give out your home or work phone number. Either provide a cell phone number, use Skype to communicate, or use an anonymous phone service such as Paginglist.com. It is just an added protection barrier until you get to know the person better.
* Respect your instincts. Trust your doubts about prospective dates who do not resemble their pictures, people with frightening personalities, and nagging suspicions that someone is being dishonest. Do not provide your full name, address and phone number until you have enough information about your prospective date to feel safe.
* Stop communicating with anyone who attempts to pressure you into providing your personal or financial information or who seems to be trying to trick you into providing it. If this happens, contact the dating provider immediately to protect not only yourself but other users as well.
* Some experts in the industry foresee a day when dating site questionnaires will be unnecessary because all relevant information will be available from Facebook and other social networking sources. Keep in mind that everything you say about yourself online stays online, for better or worse.

3. Keep adequate computer security

These considerations are pretty general, helping you to remain safe through any of your online experiences and adventures. However, if you are not so active online, we would like to highlight the importance of following these rules:

* Be careful when accessing your account from a public or shared computer so that others cannot view or record your password or personal information.
* Be wary of opening email attachments from someone you have only just met. Especially, when the attachment types are of the most dangerous type, such as *exe, *bat, else.
* Ensure that you keep your internet security software up to date.

4. Take things slow

When you meet someone over the internet whom you would like to meet in person, the idea of a first date can be very exciting.  However, it is very important to take the time to get to know one another over the internet first.   Most senior dating sites allow you to build an online connection through voice chat, video chat, email, etc.  Utilize these tools to learn more about the person, watch for red flags or inconsistencies, and determine if your online friend is trustworthy enough to take things to the next level. It may be a good idea to request a recent photograph of the person to help verify the legitimacy of the member. Remember, you are in control of your online dating experience and should never meet in person until you are ready.

5. Do your own research

There is definitely a limit to an online dating provider’s ability to check the backgrounds of users and verify the information they provide. They cannot do a criminal records check on every user. Moreover, a person can become a problem without having any official criminal records. Therefore, don't get a false sense of security because you're on a dating site; do your own research to learn more about someone and make informed decisions before you decide to meet. Check to see if the person you are interested in is on other social networking sites like Facebook, do a web search to see if there are other records of the person online, and if possible use google image search to check the profile photos.

6. Keep a healthy skepticism

It is tempting to think that once you send your profile out into cyber-world, you will be inundated with messages from eligible dates. In reality, your first few weeks on any dating website will probably be the busiest, as your profile is sent out to all the people who have indicated an interest in someone like you.

Most of the people who contact you will be genuine, even if they might not be your type. There is always the risk of scammers on any dating site though. You should be on the lookout for anyone who contacts you and starts pledging his or her devotion to you immediately. This is a common tactic for ‘Catfish’ – a term commonly used to describe online impostors who create a false persona on the Internet to lure people into a relationship.

If somebody sounds too good to be true, they probably are. Some scammers will study a profile and introduce themselves with a list of your exact requirements. Ask yourself just how likely it is that anyone in the real world actually meets every single one of your criteria!

7. Avoid scammers

You already got it, but we want to make a point that people are not always what they seem. Traditionally, all dating sites, social networks and other internet services are targeted by scammers. Scammers want one thing and one thing only – money. Here are a few examples of common scammer behaviors to watch out for:

1. Declarations of love - If someone you are in contact with starts declaring their love for you within a matter of weeks (or even days or hours), be cautious. You need to know someone to come to love them. Instant messages of love could be someone trying to get right into your life, possibly for all the wrong reasons. Use common sense and do not be afraid to speak to a friend to get a second opinion.
2. Requests for money - This really should send alarm bells ringing whatever the form the request comes in. Scammers will look to gain your sympathy with the stories they tell.
3. Someone offering you money - Who gives money away to strangers through a dating site? These are always frauds. The same goes for anyone with sure-fire get rich quick schemes. The only one trying to get rich quick is the scammer as he or she fishes for your bank details or other financial information.
4. Threats and blackmail - These are ugly words. However, some scammers have tried to threaten money out of people for not showing pictures, webcam footage or messages that they have managed to get out of users online.

Advice for avoiding scammers:

* Never ever respond to a request for money.
* Never give out bank account or other details.
* Beware of the sob story - someone telling you how much they want to visit you but need a loan to pay for the ticket/visas. Or, soul-touching stories about a desperately ill family member who needs help with medical expenses.
* The same goes for fantastic too good to be true business deal they are in on – if only they had some extra up-front money…..
* Watch out for those profiles that immediately tug on heartstrings – supposed ex-serviceman or woman, or those who claim to be recently widowed to gain your trust and sympathy.
* Don’t let the passing of time cloud your judgment. These sorts of pitches may take time to come out in messages, time in which you may very well have come to trust and value a relationship with your online contact. That does not make them any less of a lie.
* Our same warning goes for pleas of urgency – about money needed at short notice. Someone asking you to use a wire service to get money to them is up to no good.
* Be wary of long distance and overseas relationships: They can happen but it is an unlikely way for a relationship to start offline so be wary online.
* Notice if a contact seems out of touch or out of kilter: people offering foreign numbers for contact, people who seem not to be aware of things happening in the UK – events, the weather etc., people who want or need to send messages at unusual hours.
* Be wary if someone seems vague in their communication about their interests, or may often repeat things or seem disconnected. They may dodge questions or make excuses for not meeting or speaking on the telephone. Their profile or communications may also have odd spelling and grammar.

8. Plan a safe first date
If an online relationship has progressed to the point of a face-to-face date, no matter how well you think you may know someone from your internet contact with him or her, you must continue to place safety as your number one priority.  Follow these tips for a safe first date:

* Meet in Public. When meeting for the first time make sure you meet in public during a busy time of day. Examples of good places to meet are a familiar restaurant or coffee shop, or even a local bookstore. Never meet someone in a remote location. Along the same lines, you should stay in a public place for the entire date. Do not bring someone you met online home with you on the first date, and do not go to their house or apartment. If you are being pressured, end the date and leave immediately.
* Drive Yourself. You should drive yourself to and from your first date, whether that means using your own vehicle or taking a cab. Never let someone you meet at an online dating site pick you up at home and be sure to always leave the date on your own; do not split a cab or accept a ride. It is important to be in control of your own transportation.
* Tell a Friend. Be sure to tell a friend or family member your plans for meeting someone in person. Include a detailed description of when and where you are going. It is also a good idea to bring a cell phone and update your friend or family member regularly throughout the date. Tell them when you arrive and stay in contact. If you do not own a cell phone, borrow one; do not rely on a public phone.
* Be observant of your surroundings. Forgo the alcohol for the first few dates and keep an eye on your drink as well as belongings like your wallet, purse and phone.
* Trust your instincts. Above all, trust your instincts. Do not do anything if you are at all uncomfortable. If you feel unsure about something during your online dating experience, there is a probably a good reason. Never hesitate to cut off communication with someone on a dating website. If you eventually meet in person, do not be afraid to excuse yourself from a date, to ask someone for help, or to simply sneak out and drive away. If you feel that you are in danger, call the police immediately. You should never feel embarrassed or worry about what someone will think; it is better to be safe than sorry.

9. Long-distance meetings

Long distance meetings pose special safety concerns to take into account. Keep these tips in mind.

* Stay in a hotel. Check into your own room and avoid staying in the other person's home. If you cannot afford a hotel, you should not go.
* Use a taxi or rental car to get to and from the airport. Securing your own ride is important. Even if the person you are meeting volunteers to pick you up from the airport, do not get into a personal vehicle with someone you have never met.
* Keep your hotel location confidential. The person you are meeting should respect your privacy until you know each other.
* Remember to keep your family and friends posted. Tell someone who you are meeting, where you are going and when you will return.

Main risks of offline dating

While we already mentioned the possible “inconvenience” of unsafe online dating, let us review again a list of the possible negative consequences:

* Personal safety when meeting someone in person who you met online.
* Stalking and harassment.
* Fraud, when people appeal to your better nature to help them out of an 'unfortunate situation' by sending money.
* People masquerading as somebody who they are not.
* Spam, selling or fraud, especially romance fraud.
* Webcam blackmail, where fraudsters record things you may do in front of your webcam then use the recording to extort money.
* Phishing emails claiming to be from an online dating site and encouraging you to divulge personal information.
* Being defrauded by using websites posing as authentic dating sites.
* Potential theft of your money if you do not use a secure link when making payments.
* Using certain dishonest dating sites that are known to set up 'pseudo' or fake profiles where the person you think you have met is actually employed by the site to keep you hanging on ... and paying money, and to stop sending you contacts and messages as soon as you have paid the fee to receive them.


Online dating can be a safe and rewarding experience if you stick with reputable dating websites and apply the advice given in this article. The vast majority of people using online dating sites never have a problem with safety, but you should always exercise caution and use sound judgment. No matter where you meet someone, protect yourself and be careful throughout your entire dating experience.

Sources and Additional Information:


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