While the vast majority of online dating site members are decent people looking for a genuine relationship, there are scammers and other undesirables that are to be avoided. Here we look at some of the steps we can take to filter out these people, and also at what some of the most common warning signs are.
Before You Put Up a Profile
- Before you join any sites, we recommend setting up a dedicated email address with one of the free email services like Gmail. The reason for this is that your regular email address may identify you by name, and even if it doesn’t it may also be possible for scammers to trace you by an internet search. Trust us on this, it can be done and people will do it. Never include your surname in your new email address.
- If you use instant messaging, the same principle applies: create a new account that does not identify you.
What Not to Put in Your Profile
- It’s important not to put up information that identifies your full name, where you work or where you live. Putting your area is fine, and needs to be done for searches to work properly.
- Photographs are fine too, but not if they identify where you work or give away where you live.
- At first, you want to keep all communication within the dating site so do not include facebook profiles, phone numbers or emails in your profile.
Communicating With Other Members
Once your profile is up, you will be sending messaged and receiving them from other members. Below are some of the signs to watch out for when something is not right.
- Scammers will usually want to communicate with you directly via email or instant message right away, rather than using the site’s messaging system. It doesn’t automatically mean that the person is a scammer if they request this, but it is a common part of the pattern.
- The person may claim to be a native of your country, but currently be overseas due to business matters, military service or family issues. As it is common for scammers to be from Nigeria, you may notice spelling/grammar errors that you would not expect.
- As scammers normally use a fake photograph stolen from an innocent party’s social media profile, you may want to run it through tineye.com to see if it crops up. This doesn’t always work, but is worth a try if you are suspicious.
- Do not give out personal information like surname, place of employment or address. If you exchange phone numbers, never give out your home phone or work numbers: offer your cell (mobile) number only.
- If you speak with the person on the phone, if they are not who they say they are you may find they have an unexpected accent.
Before You Meet for the First Time
So you have been communicating with someone, and everything seems fine. You may even have chatted on the phone. When you feel comfortable about meeting for the first time – and you should never feel pressured to meet anyone before you are absolutely comfortable with it – there are a few basic safety tips to follow.
- Arrange to meet in a well frequented public place, like a cafe, and in an area you are familiar with.
- Tell a friend who you are meeting, where you are going to meet them and when.
- Arrange for your friend to call you at a prearranged time – 20 or 30 minutes after your meeting time, perhaps. You can use this call as an excuse to end the date if you don’t wish to continue with it. If everything is going fine, no harm done.
- When the date is over, do not allow your date to drive or walk you home, even if they offer. If they are genuine, they will understand and respect your wishes
There are a few things that should set off alarm bells, and if any of these things happen break off all contact immediately.
- The person asks detailed or inappropriate questions.
- They want to escalate the relationship at an unnatural pace.
- Requests for money. These are usually totally out of the blue, and the person will claim there is a business emergency or that a family member has a medical emergency.
- Requests for your assistance in transferring funds or shipping packages.
- The person pressures you to move faster than you want to, or to compromise on your principles in some way.
- Your instinct. Sometimes we just get a feeling that something isn’t quite right. Always listen to your instinct, it is usually correct.
One of the main reasons for keeping communication through the dating site to begin with is that the site customer service staff are familiar with these issues. If you are having any doubts or concerns, contact site staff who can advise you based on experience, and may be able to investigate further. Always trust your intuition: if something seems wrong, it probably is. Stay safe!