Unfortunately, the internet is a virtual playground for scam artists and those looking to take advantage of the vulnerable. It is very easy to connect with someone online and the appeal of meeting potentially hundreds of singles is impossible to ignore. However, be cautious when meeting someone online for the following reasons:
- You can never be 100% certain of who is on the other end of the conversation. I can post a picture of Heidi Klum and pretend that it’s me. I can also be a 12-year-old boy or 80-year-old woman if I want to (neither of which I am). I can be any character that I want and you will never know until you meet me.
- It’s easy to be vulnerable. When you are talking to someone over the internet, conversation can flow easily. Late night communication and convenient instant messaging make it easy to divulge your deepest, darkest secrets. Never ever give out personal information that can come back to haunt you such as your street address, social security number or where you work. This goes without saying, but it is far too easy to feel comfortable spilling your secrets to a seemingly anonymous chat box.
- It’s even easier to fall head over heels. In a virtual dating scenario, your attraction is going to be largely based on what you imagine the person to be. They can tell you their height, weight, hair color and age, but you can concoct up a completely different image in your head…even if they send you a picture. Case in point: a friend of mine met a fellow off of the internet after talking to him on the phone for weeks and even seeing his picture. She told me that he could be “the one”. He was sweet, sensitive, intelligent and attractive. When she went to meet him, it turned out that the picture was from 10 years (and 50 pounds) ago and her “dream guy” chewed food with his mouth open. She was devastated.
- There is no pre-screening. Let’s face it: anyone with internet access can open up a dating profile. When we meet people through other means – at school, through friends or at work – we have at least some way of ensuring that they are genuine. For example, your friend can set you up with another friend and you will already know all sorts about your potential date. You may even be privy to information about your date’s previous relationships.
When you don’t have any of this information, you are left to your own devices. Internet searches can only take you so far. If you have been chatting online with someone for months and are finally getting ready to meet them there are certain precautions you should take. For example, you might want to know that your potential “perfect match” has not been convicted of any crimes. Subtly, get the first and last name of the person you are chatting with. Throughout your various conversations, gather other pieces of information such as their home town, where they were born and how old they are.
You can start by conducting your own research. If your internet search turns up nothing, it’s time to seek the assistance of private investigators. You can never be too cautious when it comes to your personal safety. If your Private Investigator cannot find any data on the person you are hoping to meet off of the internet this is a huge red flag. Instead of proceeding any further, cut your losses and move on to the next eligible single. Not everyone is online to scam you, but be smart about who you let into your life.