I was interviewed back in February of 2000 by a Seattle Times writer, Winda Benedetti, about the potential dangers of online dating when I was working for Kiss.com which at the time was a Seattle-based online dating website.
Here is an excerpt from the article on some of my suggestions that I provided to her:
Brian Rauschenbach of the Seattle-based Kiss.com, says cyberdaters should watch out for these red flags:
- Are they being vague or ignoring your questions?
- Do they give inconsistent information about themselves?
- Is the person disappearing for days or weeks at a time?
- Are they only available during odd hours?
Isn’t it funny how we had names like “Cyberdaters” back then? Well, nothing much has changed since 2000 except for the fact that it is now more acceptible to tell your friends that you are dating online. With the introduction of free websites like OKCupid, Plentyoffish and Justsayhi, there is a little more concern over safety and people setting up fake profiles pretending to be someone else. There was recently an incident where a young teenager on Myspace started dating someone and they dumped them and she committed suicide and the whole thing was a hoax.
How do you avoid being a victim of a potential horror story? Here are some additional guidelines to follow in your online dating adventures:
Don’t Race to the Finish Line. Take is Slow
Trust your gut instincts. When something sounds too good to be true, it usually is. Invest the time to get to know the person over email first by asking them some questions that require more then a yes/no answer. Look for some inconsistencies or odd behavior like I mentioned above.
Be Anonymous with Your Real Identity
Most dating sites allow you to correspond with other members via their own messaging system. If you take the conversation off the website that you met on then make sure you are still using a free email service like gmail or hotmail.
Ask Them For a Few Photos
If you get to a stage where you are feeling more comfortable with the person ask them to send you some photos of themselves in different settings so you can make sure they aren’t hiding anything from you. We have all heard stories where a friend met someone online and when they actually had their first meeting it wasn’t the same person in the photo online. If they say they have a pet then ask them to take a photo with their pet. Everyone has a digital camera nowadays or have access to one pretty easy.
Talk on the Phone Before Meeting in Person
Phone calls are always a good gauge for how a person to person interaction and conversation will go. Be sure to use your mobile phone and to block your number with *67 caller ID blocking or however your phone provider blocks your outgoing number. You can even setup a skype account and phone number if you don’t mind talking into a microphone/headset on your computer.
Meeting in Person for the First Time
You are finally comfortable to meet each other for the first time. Make sure that you don’t get picked up or provide your address of where you live in case the person is a wierdo or creepy. You choose the meeting spot and make sure it is a public location. It is also a good idea to let a close friend know when and where you are meeting the date. I remember doing an interview with TechTV about safe dating and they had told me a story about a woman from Oregon that flew down to San Diego to meet a man that she met in a chat room and she stayed with him for a week and when she went to leave he stabbed her several times and left her to die. She survived and was able to call the police. What went wrong here? Two things – Don’t try to meet people in chat rooms and never stay with someone that you don’t really know yet.
Have an Emergency Exit Plan
If you are in the middle of your date and have an unsure feeling about how things are going then excuse yourself and call a friend for advice and if you feel that you might be in danger then slip out the back door and phone the police if you think the person might follow you out. It is always better to be safe then sorry and you won’t be that embarrased if you don’t make that much of a scene.
Wow! The Date is Going Well
Even if you get to a stage in the date where you are feeling comfortable with the person and decide to go to another bar or to their place make sure you drive and follow them and don’t leave your transportation behind. If you decide to go back to their place to hang out or make-out then make sure you get an address and leave it with one of your friends and let them know that you’ll call them in 30 minutes or so to let them know everything is still good.
The Background Check
Whenever I talk to people about this one they feel like their privacy is being invaded but the truth is that their is a free website that has a bunch of your personal information on it probably unless you have been really good about living under a rock for the past 15 years. Check out Zabasearch.com if you have the persons’ name and address information and want to fact check it against public record data for free. If they give you their SSN you can use Peoplefinders.com and Intelius.com for a full background check for around $30 bucks.
Why does some of this sound like overkill? “I’ve been on tons of dates before and never worried about this type of stuff.” Finding your future wife or husband on your computer is a little different then meeting someone in a bar that you frequent. I have found that there is quite a mix of normal people and people that are a little less socially adaptive online. You have to do a little more filtering and weeding out when taking to the online dating “stage”. Good luck and I hope you find the love of your life.