While legitimate Internet dating services and chatrooms often provide a safe and anonymous means for singles to connect socially, there are still some concerns over Internet dating safety. Participants in some singles chatrooms and social websites have been stalked, kidnapped, sexually assaulted or even murdered by people they've originally contacted online. Minors have been lured to out-of-state locations by pedophiles posing online as teenagers. The same anonymity that encourages more open communication can also make law enforcement efforts more difficult.
There are several things you should know about Internet dating safety, including how to protect your personal identity, how to take precautions before meeting face-to-face, and how to detect impostors and potential criminals. A number of people have met their future spouses online, so you shouldn't feel that these Internet dating safety rules are meant to discourage participation in all chatrooms or singles websites. The main goal is to be aware of the potential hazards one might encounter while online.
One important Internet dating safety tip is to protect your personal identity, especially during the early stages of an online relationship. Avoid Internet nicknames that may reveal too much about yourself, such as a real first or last name. You should also avoid revealing the name of your hometown while chatting in a public forum. If an interested party wants to know more about your personal life, you should remain a little vague. "I live in a really small town" would be a safer response than "Working in a library in Billings is really boring." It would not take much research for a stalker to find the location of all the libraries in Billings, Montana.
Another Internet dating safety tip is to let others know about your dating activities. This doesn't mean telling your parents or siblings every detail of your romantic life, but someone else should know about any serious Internet relationship. You may decide to meet face-to-face with your new online friend at a distant location, so it pays to share at least some basic information with someone you trust. Details such as an Internet nickname, chatroom location, real name, state and city address, or occupation may help law enforcement officers if a search becomes necessary. A secret online romance may be appealing, but keeping secrets from friends and family can lead to serious complications later.
One Internet dating safety tip can also apply to any form of blind or arranged date. Whenever possible, arrange for the first date to take place in a public venue. This can be especially difficult with online relationships, since the participants may live in different states or even countries.
Even if you have to travel to a distant location for a first meeting, arrange for your own housing and transportation. Unless you feel extremely comfortable with the other party, resist the temptation to stay at his or her place during a first real-life encounter. You should always have an independent way to return home if the date turns sour or you do not feel comfortable.
Internet dating safety often boils down to using the same common sense you would on a real-life date. Married people have been known to pose as singles in chatrooms, so ask specific questions about a potential date's current marital status. "Married but separated" covers a wide spectrum, so use common sense before entering into an Internet relationship with someone who is still legally married.
Age is another consideration for Internet dating safety. Older pedophiles often lie about their age in order to attract preteens and teenagers. If you are a young person using the Internet for dating purposes, make sure you know the reputation of the chatroom you use. Avoid open chatrooms where the conversations turn too sexual too quickly. Such chatters are most likely trolling for victims, not legitimate dates.
Before agreeing to any real-life meetings, try to verify a potential suitor's age through photographs, driver's license information or a reliable reference. It may sound clinical and unromantic, but your personal Internet dating safety could be at stake if you don't ask the right questions or receive the right answers.