A Jewish Matchmaker’s Guide to Online Dating Safety

Specialized dating sites target singles by religious orientation to consciousness level, and everything in between. Need to do your dating on the go? Don’t worry, there’s an app for that. If you’re single and not dating online – seems you’re the odd one out. Of the 54,250,000 single adults in the US, 41,250.000 have tried online dating at least once (statisticbrain.com).

With such a large target audience, it was inevitable that scam artists and con men wouldn’t be far behind. According to Venturebeat, 1 in 10 online profiles are scams, meaning some of the “singles” you’ve contacted, and some who have contacted you, are probably frauds. What do these scammers want? Some are out for sexual conquest, some are sexual predators, and others will take whatever they can get- including your personal information, gifts, and money.

If you’re meeting potential partners online, be aware of the risks and stay in control of your information and the situation. This is not the time or place to “wear your heart on your sleeve”. You can be engaging, flirtatious, and playful – but don’t be stupid. Follow these 10 safety tips for online dating and the scammers and con artists that cross your path will keep on moving.

1. Create an online “presence”. Open an email account that you use only for online dating and select a set of photographs to use only on dating sites. Don’t post those photos anywhere else online. If you post those same photos on Facebook, for example, a simple image search could provide a scammer with information about where you live, your friends, your place of business, and more.
2. Use only your first name (or a pseudonym) until you’ve met in person. Don’t provide your last name, your home or work phone numbers, your main email or home address, your place of work, or any other identifying information with which someone can track you down until you have met in person and feel a certain level of trust. Never include personal information in your profile and do not use any personal information in your username.
3. Be selective. Do not provide your twitter handle or ‘friend’ someone on Facebook until you’ve established a relationship with this person. Why give access to a virtual stranger?
4. Do your research. Do a Google image search on everyone that you are interested in to make sure the photo used isn’t stolen or being used in multiple fake profiles. If someone provides you with their full name, do a Google search and a background check. Even if the other party provides his/her personal info, do NOT give your personal information until you’ve had at least one face-to-face.
5. Meet in public. Schedule dates in public places and make sure a friend or family member knows when, where, and for how long you are meeting, and check-in with the person at least once during your date to confirm that all is well.
6. Meet onsite. At least for the first date, arrange your own transportation and do not let your date pick you up or take you home. Do not go home with your date (or to a hotel), and do not bring your date to your place no matter how strong the chemistry. Sexual attraction is great, and waiting will increase the desire. If you want sex, ask yourself whether the momentary promise of pleasure is worth the risk to your safety. If your date is pressuring you, take it as a red flag.
7. Watch your stuff. During the date, don’t leave your purse, mobile phone, or any other personal items unattended. And do not leave your drink unattended.
8. Hold off on gifts. Do not give money, gifts, or naked photos of yourself to anyone unless you are involved in a mutually satisfying and trustworthy relationship.
9. Stay autonomous. If you are traveling long distance to meet a date, book a hotel no matter how cost-effective and appealing it may be to crash at his/her place, and take a cab or rental car to and from the date.
10. Most of all, trust your intuition. Con artists play on your emotions – particularly if you’re a trusting, sincere person. You don’t have to build a wall of fear, but don’t put yourself in a vulnerable situation. Love yourself more than you love the idea of finding your perfect partner.

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