Friday, August 9, 2013

Dating: Safety First! How to Scam-Proof Yourself

With on-line and international dating becoming a fairly common practice, and most people having their private information easily accessible on online social networks, it is becoming easier to be scammed. Aside from a few pictures, a self-description and a few written conversations, how much can you really trust someone you only know in the virtual world?

Because you don’t know who they are or what their real intentions might be, always make safe choices that protect yourself and prevent someone you don’t know from becoming your responsibility or a liability. 

Until you have met, gotten to know and developed trust over time with someone, they are a STRANGER. Always keep that in mind so that you don't give them more trust than they have earned.

NEVER: Agree to meet someone who won’t talk with you on the phone before you meet them. If they claim to not have a phone they can certainly borrow a friend or family members, or go buy a cheap one. If they claim to have lost or broken theirs, say you’ll wait for them to get a replacement and then have your conversation. Don’t accept collect calls. That’s a really tacky way to start off getting to know someone and should raise a bunch of red flags about their stability and tendency to be a leech.  

NEVER: Share personal information with someone you’re just meeting. Information like your driver’s license number, social security number, bank account information, life insurance information are none of their business. If they ask about those things, you should be suspicious! 

NEVER: Give in to their sob story and wire them money. There a lots of programs out there to help people who need financial help. You can point them in the direction of one of those websites and tell them you’ll offer them moral support. If they make no attempt to help themselves, they’re just looking to use you. You want to find someone who will become your partner, not your dependent right?  

NEVER: Let someone know exactly where you live until AFTER you have met them and have gotten to know and trust them. If it doesn’t work out with them, you don’t want them following you home anyway.

NEVER: Agree to pay for someone’s plane/bus/taxi fare if they are coming to meet you. They might take your money and you’ll never hear from them again.

NEVER: Agree to let someone pay to fly or taxi you out to meet them. You will be utterly at their mercy. You should never meet someone where you both know they have the upper hand.

NEVER: Agree to let someone stay at your house or plan to stay at their house. They could seriously injure, rape, rob or kill you.

NEVER: Agree to do sexual acts with each other. You don’t know if they are sane, safe or healthy.

NEVER: Agree to meet anyone for the first time if either of you have children with you. They are after all, still a stranger. Stranger danger…remember?

NEVER: Agree to meet anyone for the first time at a hotel, apartment, house or secluded location. They may be a sick, demented psycho path. 

NEVER: Let someone talk you into agreeing to do an activity you don’t feel is safe or that requires a trusting relationship. Sky diving, deep sea scuba diving, and private plane rides are excellent third or fourth date plans. THIS is just a first “meet”. Remember the distinction. 

There are many ways to do background searches on people to find out if they have a prior history of inappropriate behavior or criminal activity. You can often just run a Google search on their full name and find out at least if anyone online has posted a complaint about them.

The point of meeting someone online is to bring together like-minded, similar intentioned people for their mutual benefit. If at any point you ever feel like things are too strange, the person's story doesn't add up, or your gut/ intuition tells you things aren't right, bail! Get out of the situation, cut off contact and tell the person you're not interested in any further contact. If you don't think they will like being told you don't want to talk to them anymore, simply ignore all their calls and messages. They should eventually get the hint.

If you feel they aren't respecting your wish to stop communicating, many sites offer you the ability to "block" a specific person's messages, many phones allow you to "block" phone numbers. If it comes down to it, you can file a police report of harassment and /or stalking behavior. This will allow you to file a restraining order against the person and have on record that they have a history of bothering you.

If you're looking for a movie that covers one possible "worst case scenario" of "What could possibly go wrong?", Check out Birthday Girl.  

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