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12 Online Dating Safety Tips

by Joe Tracy, publisher of Online Dating Magazine (©copyright, 2008)

When it comes to online dating, your first concern should always be safety and common sense. It's when our judgment lacks that we often get into trouble. By observing some key online dating safety tips, you should find your online dating experience to be more rewarding, safe, and enjoyable.

Tip #1: Never Talk About Children in Your Profile
On July 21, 2007, Online Dating Magazine issued a warning to single parents that there are some sex predators using online dating to find victims. As such, Online Dating Magazine warned that single parents should never talk about their children in their profile. Posting pictures of children is also a bad idea. And before you ever introduce someone you have a love interest in to your children, run a background check on that individual.

Tip #2: Use Your Headline to Filter Results
Many people have trouble thinking of what to say in their online dating profile headline. Some post overused phrases like "I might be the one you're looking for" while other simply put "hi" or "hello". The key is that you can use this space to help "filter" who you want to communicate with you, thus cutting down on unwanted communications. For example, in your headline state "Looking for local men/women only between 27-35 with pictures". This will help stop some (not all) of the overseas scam emails, and also married men that don't post pictures. It's not foolproof, of course, but every little bit helps.

Tip #3: Don't Post Your Income
People who make good money (like more than $100,000 a year), could be more of a target by overseas scammers by listing their income. Most dating services offer the option to select something like "will tell you later" or "not disclosed".

Tip #4: Wait Before Communicating via Email
When you receive a first email from someone that contains their email address, that's a major red flag that the person is a scammer. Scammers try to get you to email right away because they know their profile will soon be deleted when the dating service they are on finds out what they're doing. So they try to get you to immediately move your communication from the dating service you are on to email. From there they send fake emails with the purpose of fostering a relationship with you so that when they gain your trust they can create an emergency to get money from you.

While nearly all scammers try to get you to email communication quick, not all will always appear to be from overseas. Some set up fake US accounts and make you believe they are from the US until its time to ask you for money. Then they'll conveniently be on a "business trip" overseas where you will be asked to wire money. Remember, if someone is rushing to move your communication offline (via phone or email), there's a good chance it could be a scam. You'll also want to avoid these appearances to others by not rushing things too quickly.

Tip #5: Keep Personal Information Personal
When you're first getting to know someone online, there's no reason to start divulging a bunch of personal information quickly. Things like where you work, where you live, etc. should never be given out until after you've met the person (see tip #9).

Tip #6: Avoid Free Online Dating Services
Free online dating services are, in general, more "dangerous" than paid ones because with free online dating services, a person is not required to use a credit card. With paid services, a credit card gives the company identifiable information on an individual and this is important (particularly to authorities) when a dating crime occurs.

Tip #7: Don't Post Suggestive Pictures or Usernames
This tip is particularly the case for females. If you use a suggestive username (iwantu, pleaseme, etc.) or post revealing photos, you may be inviting an element of communication from others that is far from honorable.

Tip #8: Use a Free Email Account
Eventually most communications end up going to email. Because an email address is a way of identifying someone, you should set up a free account just for dating at a place like Yahoo, Hotmail, or Gmail. Use this account only for your dating communications. That way, if a person Google's your email address,, they won't find anything about you.

Tip #9: Meet in a Public Place
When meeting someone for the first time, it's vital that you meet at a public location and that you provide your own transportation to that location. You should also make sure that friends and family know where you are at and who you are with. The majority of online daters meet someone at a coffee place for a first date. The reason is because a coffee place (like Starbucks) is in a controlled atmosphere. It's easy to end the date quickly or carry on for a long time if it's going well.

Tip #10: Don't Go to the Other Person's Place
The majority of crimes against online daters (not a huge ratio, but it does happen) occur during a first meeting when a person invites the other to his/her place or goes to their date's home. You should never be alone with the other person on a first date.

Tip #11: If the Person Lied, then Leave
If you arrive at a first date and see that your date is nothing like his/her photo or lied in other ways, then it's best to excuse yourself from the date. If a person clearly lied on their online dating profile then they purposely sought to deceive you. What other deception they may be capable of isn't worth sticking around to find out.

Tip #12: Trust Your Gut Instinct
If, during offline communications or a first date, your gut instinct tells you that something is not right, then you should cease communications with the person. Trust your gut instinct. It rarely lets you down.

In general, online dating is a safe medium as long as you use common sense, trust your gut instinct, and keep in mind safety rules that will keep you safe and help you find the soulmate you are looking for.

Joe Tracy is the publisher of Online Dating Magazine. This article is copyright and may not be reused, republished, or rewritten.

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