Online Dating? Read our advice
Online dating is like driving. You may be an honest, careful, insured driver but many people aren’t. So, you have to drive defensively – and watch out for erratic and dangerous drivers. The same is true for online cyberdating – you have to watch out for others online.
Unfortunately, many financial and sexual predators do use online dating sites looking for vulnerable, lonely people. One of the biggest indicators you are talking to a predator is when they mirror you. This is when they agree with you on almost everything the type of music, movies, relationship views etc. So, it appears that you are "soul mates" meant to be together.
Top Tips to Online Dating
- Use a reputable dating site. Read their terms and conditions. They should publish contact details and their company number. What are their procedures if you have problems with another client or someone stalks you?
- Use unidentifiable screen names; but keep it clean - you don't want the wrong type of attention.
- Protect your privacy and do not give out personal information. Don't use your real name and don't give your last name on your profile or online. Don't let people know exactly where you live - just tell them the county.
- Don't use your normal email or Instant Messenger accounts. Set-up a separate account for online dating and get a free email such as Yahoo, GoogleMail or Hotmail.
- Mobile pictures embed your location so turn off your geolocation services for photos BEFORE you send a photo. Don't send old photos unless you are sure that there are no geo tags or use a software to remove the geotag go to www.download.cnet.com and search for EXIF remover.
- Be careful what you say in your chats. Stalkers will ask questions and piece together bits of information that they can use to find you.
- Don't use sexy or suggestive language. Flirting online can go too far. Be careful you don't give someone the wrong impression.
- Don't rush it. Take time to get know someone. You need time to see if their behaviour is consistent and to look for warning signs. If they are want to move the relationship along fast that is a warning sign.
- Save copies of your online dating conversations. It will help you notice inconsistencies and help if you have trouble with them later.
- Keep an open mind about who you are talking to. People may tell white lies about their looks, age, weight, height - or they can invent everything about themselves
- Don't rely on a photo - it may be out of date or a completely different person!
- If you decide to call them, with-hold your number (eg dial 141 first).
- If you do decide to meet someone off line, take a friend and meet during the day in a public place. Always let someone know when and where you are meeting. Meet them in public several times until you are happy.
- Don't go home with anyone or take them back to your place.
- Remember your manners, if you don't want to continue to chat with someone be kind but firm using clear language "I don't want to date you, please don't contact me again"
Warning signs of a cyberstalker
- They are anxious to move from the dating site to private email, texting, or telephone calls.
- They keep asking for personal information, where you work, where you went to school etc.
- They agree with everything you say “as if you were soul mates”.
- They start talking about how much they like you only after a few chats. They seem to be too interested – too soon.
- They keep changing their story or somehow it just doesn’t all add up.
- They become demanding/controlling wanting to know who your friends are, why you haven’t been online etc.
- They know things about you that you didn’t tell them.
- They seem to know when and where you are online. They say “I know you were online because I saw your posts” or they are always showing up in the same chatroom.
- They start adding your friends and family to their list, even though they don’t know them.
- They talk about you a lot in forum and online. Make up stories about you or describe going on imaginary dates with you.
Advice for Victims
- If you are victim of stalking or harassment you should contact your local police http://www.police.uk/forces.htm
- Under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997, you only need two occurrences before the police can act. Try to gather evidence for the police such as:
- Chat/IM conversations - make a copy of your chat conversations. On your keyboard is a special key that says “Prt Sc - SysRq” or “PrintScreen”. If you hold down the “ALT” key and press that special key, a Windows PC will take a copy of what is on your screen. Open up a new Wordprocessor or Paint document and paste the image in it, be sure to add the time and date of the conversation.
- Telephone calls – if someone undesirable calls, calmly put the handset down to one side and leave for a few minutes before you return the handset. If you can, unplug your phone (and any extension phones) for a short while afterwards. Make a note of the date and time and dial 1471 to try to get the caller’s number.
- Contact your telephone company's Malicious Calls Section for assistance.
- Mail – if you get suspicious package don't open take it to the police - try to preserve any finger prints.
- Take pictures – if you a camera of video recorder record any evidence and note, date, time and place.
- Rely on your gut instincts, if you ever feel in imminent danger do not hesitate - call 999.