Cosmo and I are both firm believers in using online dating sites to find true love. But we both went into it being mindful of dating safety with these sites.
These sites offer a large pool of potential partners, and the over 50 crowd is the most rapidly growing segment.
If you’re seriously looking for someone, it just makes sense to add online dating to your dating roadmap, along with making real-life connections. But do so with eyes wide open.
Risk Is Associated with Both Online and Real-life Dating
Dating people you meet in real life (say, through a friend or relative) doesn’t guarantee you’ll have a safe dating experience.
Even a blind date arranged by a good friend can go bad, and threaten your safety.
Online dating comes with its own set of safety issues. Going into it understanding this and being cautious of these things can save you from harm and heartache.
Whichever scenario, you’re meeting a stranger.
I was very resistant to online dating at first, because I was afraid of it.
After reading and hearing horror stories, I was convinced these sites were swarming with scammers and predators.
I was wrong.
Sure, there are some bad people on dating sites, whose purpose is all about taking advantage of, or hurting others.
But with about 2 years of serious online dating under my belt, I ran into only a few nefarious types and, because I was on the lookout, I easily sidestepped them.
I hope that fear about your safety won’t keep you from dipping your toes into the online dating world.
Any kind of dating carries some risk, but with planning, knowledge, and just good common sense, you can take advantage of the access to such a large pool of over 60 daters that the dating sites afford you . . . and still stay safe.
Potential Dating Safety Risks and How To Circumvent Them
There are many ways deceptive people go about taking advantage of others online.
And they’re marked with names like catfish, predators and scammers.
Urbandictionary.com defines a catfish as someone who pretends to be someone they’re not using Facebook or other social media to create false identities, particularly to pursue deceptive online romances.
Predators and scammers on dating sites are out to physically harm members and/or fleece them of money. They slowly gain your trust and then guilt you into sending them money, with some kind of promise of payback.
A Consumer Reports article notes that scams can (and do) happen to anyone – women and men, doctors and lawyers, CEOs of companies, people from the entertainment industry. David Farquhar, Supervisory Special Agent with the FBI said:
“Typically the scammer builds trust by writing long letters over weeks or months and crafting a whole persona for their victims. That big investment gives victims a false sense that the relationship must be real.”
The scammer then concocts an emergency situation, for which they need big money right away. By that time, the person being scammed – even if they’ve never met the scammer in person – is so wrapped up in what they feel is a relationship, they’re happy to send money.
These people are experienced and know how to manipulate. First, they study profiles and target those who come off as lonely and vulnerable. Then they gently, slowly and patiently lure people in, gaining their confidence (thus the tag “con artist”)
They use poor grammar on purpose as a screening device when they write to you. If you fall for, and respond to, someone who emails you something nonsensical like the following, the scammers know you’re an easy target. You’ve shown yourself to be naive and gullible:
“My heart good for you” or “Nice you. Pretty lady”,
Some Tips To Detect Scammers Before They Entrap You
Financial journalist Kathy Kristof detailed red flags to detect scammers in a CBS MoneyWatch article, including someone who:
1. Urges you to move your communications off the site. A typical reason they give is that their membership is about to run out.
2. Goes overboard lavishing you with attention and flattery. If you’re lonely and vulnerable, they’ll pick up on it, make you feel like a million bucks and then easily convince you that they’re in love with you.
3. Always has some kind of excuse for why they can’t meet you in person.
Basically, things just don’t stack up when you’re dealing with a scammer. Things don’t feel right (or they feel TOO right). They’re out to manipulate you for their own purposes, and you may sense it.
Trust your gut and be skeptical. If someone seems way too good to be true, they probably are.
To avoid romance scams, the Consumer Reports article I noted above suggests:
“Run a search. Copy the images your online correspondent has posted to his or her profile, then run them through a reverse-image search engine, such as TinEye.com or Google Images. If the images come up associated with a person who has another name or lives in a different city, you have good reason to suspect they were stolen from someone else’s profile.
And if you’ve been communicating with someone by email, check their address at a site such as RomanceScams.org, which compiles lists of email addresses belonging to known scammers. The website Scamalytics.com maintains a blacklist of scammers who use false pictures.”
Additionally, they advise Googling the person’s name and see what you find. Even their social media profiles and activity can yield some information for you to compare against what they’ve told or written to you.
Choose Safe Locations and Situations
An eHarmony article includes lots of helpful advice, including:
- For your first few dates, meet your date in a public place. If your date pressures you to meet at their house or at an isolated place, please cancel the date.
- Use your own transportation, so you can leave when you want to. Never agree to be picked up at your home and wherever possible, drive yourself or use a ride-share app.
- Tell at least one friend or family member about your plans and when you will return. Arrange to check in with them after each of the first few dates.
- Carry a fully charged mobile phone with easily accessible emergency numbers.
- Make sure your purse and any drinks are always kept within eyesight.
In an AARP article, Author Ken Solin offered further online dating safety tips:
1. Gentlemen first. When you’ve exchanged emails with a prospect and you feel it’s time to furnish phone numbers, the man should offer his first. If he doesn’t, the woman should ask him to do so. I can’t think of any good reason why a legitimately eligible man would withhold his digits; if he does, that’s ample cause to feel unsafe. Give the dude a pass.
2. Call for backup. I was enjoying a second date at a restaurant when my companion took a call during dinner. I was pretty sure I knew what was going on.
“I’m just fine,” she told the caller, then stowed the phone with an apologetic smile.
“What would your friend have done if you hadn’t picked up?” I asked her.
“She had instructions to call the police,” she replied.
Good tip. Smart woman.
3. Know when to bail. I once had a coffee date with a woman who grew increasingly angry — and vocal — over her mistreatment by an ex-boyfriend. When she turned her attack on me, I got up and left — and was thankful for an audience to witness my exit.
Be Mindful of Your Own Risky Behavior
Your safety may be at risk because of factors other than bad people with bad intentions.
The risk may come from within you.
8 online dating safety tips: Some things to do and NOT to do
1. Be truthful on your online dating profile, but don’t include your real name or any other identifying information about yourself.
2. Find out as much as you can about someone, before you have that first date.
3. Don’t get into your date’s car on the first date. Drive yourself.
4. Don’t invite your date to your home on the first date. Wait until you’ve had a few dates and get a sense of whether you’ll be safe alone with them.
5. Make your first date a coffee date, so you can escape quickly and easily, if necessary. Meet during the day in a public setting.
6. Be careful with alcohol. It may make sense to you to have a few drinks on first dates, to loosen up and have a better time. But alcohol leads to poor decision making. It’s best not to drink at all, or limit it to just one drink.
7. If you fall head-over-heels for someone on the first date, proceed with extreme caution. No matter how great she or he is, take it slow. The “sex hormone” oxytocin may be raging within you, causing you to make hasty, unwise decisions . . . like hopping into bed with them way too early.
8. I’ll reiterate what I said earlier: Trust your gut. If something feels wrong about your date, don’t continue with them.
I don’t mean to scare you away from online dating. Far from it. Bad things can and do happen just as easily on dates arranged through people you know and trust.
From my experience with online dating, you’re more likely to encounter people who are dead wrong for you . . . and especially those who misrepresent their age, appearance and other things on their profiles . . . than you are people out to do you any kind of harm.
My intention is to arm you with precautionary measures to protect you and make your online dating experience a good one . . . resulting ultimately in finding your soulmate, if that’s what you’re after, or people to casually date.
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I wish you great success in the dating game!