4 Rules For Safe Online Dating

Many millions of people interact online every single day with banks, shops and other organizations. The vast majority of these internet transactions are perfectly safe, but stories regularly make the news about people that are stalked, or worse, by other people they have met online.
With the rise in internet dating, many people are finding love online, but you have to remember that you do not really know the people you have met online. It is important to follow good internet practices to ensure you are safe online dating. This is particularly true for women, although men can be at risk too.

The Risks

When you start online dating, you might think that the biggest risks you face are disappointment and a broken heart. Unfortunately, this is not the case and you are at risk from any of these:
  • Physical assault if you meet someone in person
  • Internet harassment and stalking
  • Financial attacks including spam and fraud
All of these are serious risks to your person, online presence and financial situation, but if you use common sense and follow these safety guidelines, you can greatly reduce the risk to your person.

Protect your Computer

When you go online, it is prudent to safeguard your computer against as many risks as possible. Try to ensure that the following occur on a regular basis:
  • Apply all applicable security fixes and service packs
  • Install a virus checker and keep it updated
  • Remove any unused applications
  • Do not click on any suspicious links
Following these steps will make your computer significantly better protected when you are online. This will greatly reduce the chances of anyone hacking onto your computer and stealing your personal data.

Protect your Privacy

When you sign up for any website, you are in control of the data you provide to the site. Before you sign up for an online dating service, consider creating a new free email address to use specifically for that service. You can use Hotmail, Gmail or Yahoo to create a new email address in seconds, and you can use that for online messaging. You might also think about using an internet telephone service, like Skype, for communication instead of your own phone.
When you sign up for the site, use this new email address. If this email address becomes the target of spammers, it will not affect your main personal email address at all and you can just ignore it. Most reputable sites will send information about possible matches to your email address and it will link back to the site. No personal information should be disclosed to other users.
In addition, when you create your profile make sure you use a generic username that does not include any personal information, and enter the bare minimum of publicly accessible personal information. Avoid posting the following information:
  • Phone number
  • Address
  • Date of birth
  • Social Security number
  • Work place
Criminals can use all of these to find you or defraud you.
You can give out your details to someone you meet online, but it is usually best to wait until you feel comfortable with someone you meet online before you disclose them.

Choose Carefully

Many online sites offer the opportunity to make new friends. Before you sign up to any of them do a little research first to check that the site provides additional safety for members. This should include safeguards to protect your anonymity until you choose to disclose personal information. It is also a good idea to check the site policies regarding inappropriate use and confirm the site enforces them.

Your First Date

If things go well, you will soon meet someone online with mutual attraction and interest in each other. You might chat online and by telephone for a while and then decide that you want to meet up for a date. Even though you feel you know this person, it is always best to follow the usual safe dating guidelines for the first dates:
  • Always meet in a public place where other people will be around
  • Travel on your own and avoid accepting a lift from your date
  • Tell a friend or family member where you are going, who you are meeting and when you will return
  • Take your phone and make sure it has a full charge
  • Stay sober
  • Keep your personal belongings safe at all times
Safe online dating is mainly using common sense just as you would for any other first date. Keep calm, take precautions and consider the potential consequences of your actions before you act.

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