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10 tips to dating online safely (2006-11-25)

Lots of people turn to the Internet to find love. After all, it seems much safer than meeting people in bars.

The truth is, people can lie as well on the Internet as anywhere else. Still, you might want to give it a whirl. So here are 10 tips to get a better and safer experience when you date online.

1. Choose the right site. In general, dating sites do not screen their members. So look for a site that has thorough privacy policies to help protect you. Popular sites include (, eHarmony (, Yahoo Personals ( and True ( The latter sets itself apart through screenings for criminal records and married applicants.

2. Use anonymity. Most services offer double-blind systems that hide email addresses from messages. Take advantage of these systems. Be sure not to give away your email address in your messages. And of course, donít reveal other identifying information early on.

3. Avoid using your primary email address. Create an email account that you use specifically for online dating. When you eventually start a true relationship, you can leave the email account behind. And your previous dates wonít have your primary email address.

4. Insist on recent photos, and many of them. Some online daters forget to update their photos. So it doesnít hurt to ask for a ďmore recentĒ photo. In fact, ask for at least five different photos. That can make things difficult for anyone whoís using old, false or doctored photos.

5. Take things slowly. Talk on the phone before you think about meeting in person. Remember, profiles and emails can be carefully constructed. Youíll get a much better representation of the person over the phone. But guard your phone number. If your phone service includes a caller ID blocking feature, use it. Otherwise, you can resort to a public phone. Make yourself difficult to contact should you decide against meeting the person. If the conversation makes you uneasy, move on to other candidates. You donít have to justify your feelings or your decision. But be honest.

6. Meet in person only when youíre ready. The decision to meet is a joint decision. Youíre not obligated to meet anyone if you feel uncomfortable. You have every right to take things at your own pace. It makes no difference how long youíve been writing, talking or instant messaging.

7. When you meet, choose a public place. Restaurants, for example, are great. And set a time when others will be around. Tell a friend where youíll be going. Use your own transportation. Donít agree to have the other person pick you up. You should be able to arrive and leave by choice.

8. Be especially cautious about traveling. The prospect of a heavenly match might lead you to another city. Donít compromise your safety. Make your own hotel arrangements and keep them private. If youíre flying, get a rental car. No one else should control where or when you can go. And, of course, make sure friends or family know your plans.

9. Watch for bad omens. Donít dismiss telltale signs that somethingís amiss. Be wary if:

Your date does not match his or her description or photo. Donít be afraid to ask questions or leave the date.

Your dateís personality does not match his or her emails or phone conversations.

Your date touches you inappropriately. If youíre uncomfortable, be honest. If the behavior continues, consider moving on to other prospects.

Your date makes demeaning comments. They could be a signs of underlying frustrations or prejudice. Be especially wary if the comments are gender-related or relate to you in some other way.

10. Trust yourself. If you feel uncomfortable or frightened, trust your feelings. Donít be embarrassed to leave. If that means excusing yourself and slipping away, do it. Donít jeopardize your safety for the sake of good manners.

And one final note: Donít make loans or give money to someone you are dating online. Too many people are taken by these scams.


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