I'm scared to try online dating - what if I get scammed or lied to? Rest assured, there are definitely steps you can take to ensure that you number among the thousands and thousands of people who have ended up getting married through online dating, rather than end up among the handful who got ripped off.
First of all, DON'T WORRY, only a very tiny fraction of online dating site members get scammed, and of those, nearly all of them made some very silly choices. BUT, you DO need to take some sensible precautions with online dating. DO NOT RISK YOUR OWN SAFETY by thinking it won't happen to you. MAKE SAFETY A PRIORITY. Here's our list of things you need to know:
Prevention is better than cure: for a start, you need to know that free dating sites have MUCH higher reports of scamming going on. Paid sites have active administrators who are constantly monitoring members and looking for dodgy behaviour. Not only this, but scammers, more often than not, are not prepared to pay the monthly subscription fees to become members. Free online dating sites are easy to sign up for, over and over again, as a different person each time. Scammers don't generally want to pay out to rip people off!
When you arrange to meet for the first time, meet in a public place like a cafe (and of course you should not have given away any of your location information at this point anyway). If you want to be really safe, we highly recommend that you take a friend along with you - see the next point...
Love is blind: know this - when you fall head over heels and feel like you have met the most wonderful person in the world, all your usual capacity for sussing people out goes out the window. Your brain gets overtaken by the sheer rush of being in love, and THIS is the point at which people make really, really silly choices. Take it from us, you WILL NOT see things/people as clearly when you are in the throws of infatuation. Even if your best friend thinks your new date is dodgy, you will really struggle to see his/her point of view.
BUT ironically it is at this precise moment when YOU NEED TO LISTEN TO YOUR FRIENDS. They are your safety net. They see things/people from a far more objective perspective, and if they are trying to tell you that you are making a big mistake, LISTEN TO THEM. Get as many opinions as you can. If one friend thinks you are mad, but the rest think all is well, ask that friend to spend more time with you and the new date. If ALL your friends think you are mad and stupid, for goodness sake run away, even if it breaks your heart.
THIS IS THE SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT SAFETY NET THAT YOU CAN EASILY USE TO KEEP YOURSELF SAFE.
Practically speaking, this should involve showing your friends some of the emails flying between the two of you, asking for opinions about the new person, and most important of all, getting your freinds to MEET him/her face to face. You'll be amazed at what they pick up on that you just never noticed.
Just to make sure this is clear, here is how we would suggest you progress in your online dating communication: email/text, then phone, then meet with a friend, then meet alone in a public place, then meet alone. Remember, you may think we sound like your mum, but this is how you reduce the chances of getting into trouble - it is well worth playing it safe and slow.
If the person you are communicating with starts asking for money, cease contact and report the member immediately to the administrators of your online dating site. No exceptions.
Google the username and if you know it, the real name of your new date. If you want to be extra safe, get a background check done.
People often ask us how they can tell if a person is lying or not. Well here's our scoop: people lie all the time, just as much online as offline. If you meet a person at a party they are just as likely to lie and pretend to be someone they are not as if you met the same person online. Liars lie. And people break up every day, offline and online, when they realiase that the person they've been getting to know is not who they thought they were when they first met. KNOWING WHETHER SOMEONE IS LYING IS A LIFE SKILL THAT YOU NEED. Whether you do online dating or not. Learn to read body language, especially eye movement and learn to ask questions when you think something doesn't add up.
Having said that, it CAN be easier to pretend/lie online, when body language is not playing its vital part in communication. SO we suggest using Skype, or the video services of your online dating site, to communicate as soon as you have established some level of relationship and interest in each other. And, at the risk of sounding like a broken record, we suggest that you INVITE A FRIEND in at that point to read the body language too.
This all needs to happen BEFORE you meet in person.
Spread your net wide! The more people you communicate with, the more you'll experience and the more the dodgy ones will stand out. If you get really set on one person too soon, you will likely miss out on some other great people, and you increase your chances of getting fooled.
Finally, be truthful yourself. Generally, you reap what you sow. Don't give up if you do get disappointed by someone - there really are some great people out there for you to meet, to try and hold onto that hope, pick yourself up and try again.
More dating advice to get the most out of online dating...
Get a proper picture taken. It never ceases to amaze us how many people put up poor quality photos of themselves in their profiles. Yet this is usually the first thing that people see! It may not be the aspect of yourself that you are most confident about, but still, you want to present yourself as best you can. Get a friend to take a few flattering shots ina good light, wearing something nice. It's worth it!
Take some time to write your profile thoughtfully. Again, this is where you make your first impression, so give some thought about how you would like to come across. Be truthful and don't be ashamed of who you are. You are loveable. Don't put yourself down or spill your weaknesses and failures in your profile - those are more intimate things that need to come out later in the safety of a growing relationship (But don't leave it too late or you run the risk of appearing to be untruthful.)
Don't be afraid to say what you want in your profile. Don't be ridiculously picky (e.g 5'10", 34" waist, size 9 shoes, fireman, 2 brothers), but if there are some absolute non-negotiables, get them out on the table straight away.
Try a few different dating sites. Each one has its own flavour, and consequently draws certain types of people. Don't put all your eggs in one basket!