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   Online Dating Safety

Online dating is very popular, and why not? Once you leave high school or college it’s not easy to find a group of people who share your age group, interests, spiritual beliefs…and your desire to connect for companionship, fun and love. While online dating can be very rewarding, it’s important to be cautious. Here are a few steps you can take to increase your online dating safety, including excerpts courtesy of Sandy Berger's Great Age Guide to Better Living Through Technology. 

Whether you meet someone in a chat room or through an online dating service, the first rule of online dating is: 
 - Take it slowly.
 - You might think you know the person because you have been chatting online or corresponding via email, but remember to use common sense when you decide to connect in person with an online dating pal. 
 - Use Extra-Safe Online Dating Sites. Most online dating Web sites begin by asking you to fill out a profile. Before you do, make sure you read the privacy policy of the Web site.

Many people who visit Internet dating sites are not completely honest. Although I advise you to be honest, please realize that others might stretch the truth a little (or a lot).

In a recent Nielsen//NetRatings' analysis of the online dating community, out of those acknowledging that they accessed an online dating service the previous day, 11 percent were married individuals. And those were the ones being honest! 

Some Web sites are taking steps to make sure people who post profiles are who they claim to be, making everyone pledge that they are single and unattached as well as honest and truthful, or doing background checks on each person it matches up. 

Keep in mind, though, that no online dating Web site is perfect. Your future mate might be somewhere on the Internet, but go slowly, use common sense, and always be at least a little suspicious. 

Guard Your Anonymity. Be sure not to include your last name, address, workplace, phone number, or any other identifying information when corresponding online. Most online dating services use a double-blind system that protects your identity. If this system is not available at the online dating service you choose, create a nickname to use just for online dating sites. It is never a good idea to use your real name. 

Ask for a Photo. Appearance can help you determine whether the person is someone with whom you want to correspond. Most online dating sites enable you to post a picture if you like. If the person doesn't send a photo and makes excuses, stop corresponding with them. And if you do get a photo, remember that it might not be current...or accurate.

Don't assume that the person who chats to you on the computer screen will be the same person in real life. The single executive you chat with who says he has a body fat rating of 18 percent and works out every day could very well be unemployed, overweight, married, and have several children.