In the day in age, online dating is now a new norm and a growing number of people are finding love through social media and match service websites. In fact, last year about 17 percent of marriages started out with the couple meeting through online dating, according to statistic consolidation site StatisticBrain.com.
While online dating experts advise it’s important to approach the process with an open mind and heart, it’s equally important to
apply caution to your online search for love – the same caution you use for any activity in the digital world.
Many people you will meet online are as honestly interested in making a connection as you are. Others, however, are less honest and are looking for an opportunity to steal your personal information and/or your money – not just your heart.
If you’re looking for love online, follow these simple rules to help protect personal information and safeguard against identity theft.
1. Limit what you share in your profile.
Never include identifying information like your full name, home address, email address, phone numbers or employer. Identity thieves can use this type of information to steal your identity and commit fraud in your name.
2. Take it slowly.
Engage in a “getting to know you” period with anyone you meet online. During that time, continue to contact and converse only through the online communication tools. Never give a personal email address, phone number, home address or other identifying information to someone you’ve just met online, and never agree to meet someone in person until you’ve gotten to know each other online first.
3. Be skeptical of requests for personal information
It should be a red flag if a potential match is asking you where you bank or your mother’s maiden name (a commonly used verification question for online accounts) in the first few conversations. Be aware that such fishing for information may not always seem obvious. Any finance-related inquiry, however, should raise a red flag, especially in the very early stages of a relationship.
4. Never send money, no matter how sad the “sob story.”
Remember, scammers will invest time and energy in winning your affection before they ask for money. When such a request occurs, it’s important to think with your head and not your heart. Even if you believe a request for help is genuine, ask yourself if you really want to become involved with someone else’s money issues.
5. Take advantage of free communication
When you’re ready to start talking, use a free online service, such as Skype or Yahoo Messenger, that will allow you to hear and see each other without actually exchanging phone numbers or any other personal information.
6. Meet in public for your first date
Choose a public place for your first face-to-face meeting, and be sure a trusted loved one knows where you will be, who you will meet, how to contact him or her, and how long you expect that first date to last. Drive your own car or arrange your own transportation. If you’ll have to travel far to meet your online date, protect your identity while traveling, and make your own travel arrangements, including staying in a hotel – not the person’s home.
7. Finally, trust your gut.
If someone makes you uncomfortable or seems too good to be true, go with your instinct and end the interaction. There are always plenty of other fish in the sea, and online dating has made it easier than ever to cast a big net into the dating waters.
This article is provided for general guidance and information. It is not intended as, nor should it be construed to be, legal, financial or other professional advice. Please consult with your attorney or financial advisor to discuss any legal or financial issues involved with credit decisions.
Published by permission from ConsumerInfo.com, Inc. © 2013 ConsumerInfo.com, Inc. All rights reserved.