Since Match.com launched in 1995, the dating landscape and Internet usage has drastically changed. Back then, only 14 percent of the U.S. population had an Internet connection. But now, according to Pew Research data, nine out of 10 people are online and dating sites are more accepted and more popular as well. Nielsen reports that 30 million users, or about 10 percent of the U.S. population, are dating online. This provokes a new set of challenges in our increasingly digital age, including safety. Here’s how you can stay safe and find love online:
When you’re setting up your profile, many dating sites ask for personal information, including your age, sex, geographic location, education and degrees, drinking behavior, income, hobbies, religion, children, job, ethnicity and favorite places you go. That’s a lot of personal information.
Some dating sites ask very few questions, but popular dating sites like eHarmony and OkCupid have hundreds of questions for you to answer to get you closer to finding “the one.” You should know, though, that the data you provide to dating sites is permanent, even if you decide to cancel or delete your profile. This includes personal photos.
To keep your personal information personal, create a username that doesn’t let everyone who’s online know who you are. Keep your contact details private, and don’t include information like your email, phone number or home address on your profile.
Understand Your Subscriptions
The two largest and most well-known dating sites charge a monthly subscription — Match.com charges $42 each month and eHarmony charges $60 on a monthly basis. But, what many dating sites don’t tell you or only include in the fine print is that most of the fees automatically renew until you cancel. Remember to read the fine print before signing up for any subscriptions. Check your bank statements each month to see if you’ve been charged, even after you cancel.
Beware of Scams
It’s not uncommon for people to fib about their height, age or weight. But some scammers take it a step further by creating entirely fabricated profiles with fake names, assets and jobs. This new online dating trend is called friendly-fraud. Because of this you are at risk of being charmed by a criminal who’s not seeking love, but looking to take over your bank accounts and credit cards. To keep your identity and assets safe, research identify theft protection agencies with a strong online presence. LifeLock has tools that can monitor your identity and alert you to any inconsistencies right away.
Keep an Eye out for Ghosts
According to Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, some dating sites use fake profiles, called “ghosts,” to lure in potential daters. These profiles are either managed by the company’s employees or by people they have paid to keep up the profiles. In 2009, Australian company JetPlace admitted that it had used 1,300 fake profiles on a matchmaking service it owned. The Online Dating Association recommends doing your own research to check out a person’s background before sending messages or meeting up. Check to see if the person you are interested in is on other social media sites like Facebook, and do a quick search to find out more about him or her. Additionally, you can use Google Image to check his or her profile photos to ensure the person and identity they are claiming is really, truly them.