Summer seems like the perfect time to find new love, doesn’t it? The weather is warm, ample activities offer great first-date opportunities, and starting a new romance in summer means you could be head-over-heels in love by the time the holidays roll around.
Online dating has made it easier than ever to meet new people. The grassroots Safer Online Dating Alliance (SODA) says online dating services “are providing a valuable service to millions of customers. However, these websites are also providing easy access to those who would prey on innocent, uninformed victims.”
In addition to the physical risks of meeting someone whom you know little about, there are financial risks as well. One of the best pieces of online dating advice we’ve heard is to keep in mind the need to protect yourself from identity theft.
Your heart isn’t the only thing at risk when you share your email address, cell phone number, name and address with online suitors. Enterprising identity thieves can use your personal information to steal from your bank accounts, use your credit card accounts, or even open new lines of credit in your name.
Fortunately, many of the steps you already take to protect yourself from identity theft can help keep you safer when dating online. Here are some steps SODA advises online daters to take:
- Use a service that does criminal background screenings, or do your own before agreeing to meet someone in person.
- Set up a separate email account through a web-based email service and use that for email communication with other online daters.
- Make sure your screen name and email address doesn’t contain information that could help determine your identity.
- Be careful what information you reveal so that you’re not targeted by someone who might think you’re an easy mark.
- Never provide financial information, including your Social Security number, to anyone you meet online.
In addition to those tips, be sure to spend time chatting online with someone before you give out a phone number or agree to meet in person. Be cautious about giving out your cell, home and work numbers; identity thieves could use those numbers to track down your address and other identifying information, and if you have any lingering suspicions check and see if the person is a known scammer.
While you’re dating online, be sure to keep a close eye on your credit report and financial accounts. Watch for any unusual activity like missing bills or statements, new accounts you didn’t apply for or calls from bill collectors on accounts you didn’t open.
It’s probably safe to say that most people you’ll encounter online are looking for love, just like you. By taking a few steps to protect yourself while dating online, you can help ensure your quest for summer love doesn’t turn into a date with disaster.