Online dating sites have become hugely popular, with global annual usage figures into the hundreds of millions. The convenience of organizing ones love-life from a home PC, combined with a reassuring level of anonymity, have made online dating sites a socially acceptable, viable lifestyle choice when it comes to seeking out a new partner.
Emails and chat messages do not convey body language, or inflexions of speech, and it is possible to obtain a very erroneous understanding of the person you’re conversing with if that person is deliberately misleading you.
There are warning signs to watch for before any meeting takes place, and there are sensible precautions which can reduce the risk of such a meeting to virtually nil.
The biggest area of online dating sites crime is fraud – money scams. No matter what circumstances the person claims to be in, any mention of a loan, or handout, from someone you barely know, is highly likely to be the request of a scam artist. Even though there is a chance that such a person could be genuinely desperate and in a tragic situation, majority of such cases should be treated by ending the correspondence.
One of the biggest irritants of the online dating is spam. If someone sends a first-time private message asking for your email address, or otherwise seems unusually eager to gain this information, the chances are they’re connected with marketing – this person/company will have lists of email addresses, and be selling them off in bulk to rival companies. Giving such a person your details will lead to an inbox full of dating related spam. Easy enough to counter – keep your email to yourself until you know a little more about who you’re dealing with.
In the world of online dating, there is a certain amount of misrepresentation that goes on. This ranges from little white lies about age, through ridiculous claims about height and fitness (which are obviously going to be uncovered at the first meeting, but people still do it), and on into more serious matters, like lying about marital status. For some seekers of romance, this might not be a problem, but for others who are genuinely looking to develop a one-on-one relationship, finding out further down the line that they’re not No1 in their new partner’s life might come as a shock. MSNBC research has shown that around one third of all online dating service users are married. It is some comfort to know that there are usually tell-tale signs: a married person, who is deliberately keeping that status secret, will act in a way that indicates they are covering something up.
And finally, the least likely occurrence, but the biggest threat: dangerous individuals. Like with the money situation, every online dating mate whom you meet face-to-face should be treated the same – meet only in a public place, preferably with people you know present. Some people seeking a dating with you will have a natural aversion to meeting up in too much of a hectic environment – fears perhaps of not being able to get in on conversations between old friends, or fears over the possibility of sniping from a secret admirer or venomous ex.
However, any sane online dating mate will agree to meet in a public place, and anyone who pushes for a private meeting is being creepy – that’s the big warning sign, and the one to be taken care or to be acted wisely.