With Valentine’s Day soon upon us, many of the 1,500 (!) online dating sites are offering free or discounted memberships. If you meet that special someone online, moving your relationship from cyber space to real life can be difficult, and sometimes dangerous. Here are a few things you can do to protect your hard drive and your heart!
If you are like me and completely computer illiterate, these issues may not have crossed your mind, but they are vital to protecting you and your online identity.
- Use a secure computer connection so that people can’t hack into your account. Avoid public WiFi hotspots and make sure your WiFi at home is password protected.
- Create a separate email account with a secure password that you only use for these sites. It should not include any identifying information like your name, phone number or address.
Get offline and face-to-face as soon as possible!
You wanted to meet people, so meet them! While putting off the initial get together may seem like the safer thing to do, getting face-to-face ASAP allows you to see if they are who they say they are. The longer you put it off, the more opportunity they have to create a false front and/or find out things about you that could be used in harmful ways.
Make it early, make it public, and always have an escape route!
When you do decide to meet in person you absolutely, positively, without fail, no ifs ands or buts MUST do the following:
- Always get yourself to the meeting place (i.e. don’t let them pick you up). This ensures that you have a way to get out if needed and just as importantly, keeps the person from knowing where you live if you decide not to keep in contact.
- Make sure someone you trust knows where you are going and when you expect to be back. In fact, have them call you at a set time no matter what – this will give you an easy out if things aren’t going well, and it will let the person know that you’ve got people waiting for you.
Do your OWN background check!
Some dating sites say that they do “background checks” on users, and other companies will offer to run background checks for a fee. But unless the FBI has started an online dating site that I haven’t heard about, don’t waste your time or money. Databases can be incomplete, access can be restricted, and information can be hidden. Nothing replaces your instincts. If someone appears too good to be true, then that’s what they are until proven otherwise.
Please, please, please check out some of these safety tips on the sites below to learn more ways to protect yourself and get the most out of your dating experience!
Cheryl Czapla, Med IV
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University
John A. Vaughn, MD
Student Health Services
The Ohio State University