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Navigating the Pitfalls of Online Dating Services

The Internet has opened up whole new areas of communication. It is a trivial matter to communicate with people in virtually any part of the world, thanks to email and chat applications - even webcams. Naturally, the trend has found its way into the world of romance.

Advertisements are everywhere now. On the radio, on television, and of course, in Internet ads, advertisers are trying to attract consumers to try this online dating service or another, all of them promising a true match and a possible soul mate. Millions of people have taken the plunge, looking for companionship or perhaps even true love.

There are many more who would like to try it, but feel apprehensive, and with good reason. Online dating is almost like blind dating, with some of the same awkwardness, and a few new wrinkles added by technology to add to the mix. It can be a scary prospect, but it does not have to be. Smart precautions and common sense can ease the process immensely.

A Few Safety Tips for the New Online Dater

Here are some basic suggestions to keep in mind:

  • Be Cautious
    This is where the blind dating similarity holds true. Even though there may be long email correspondence or chats or possibly even phone calls, the chance remains that the person on the other end may not be all they seem. It is not unheard of for someone to misrepresent themselves to a potential online partner, so be cautious when virtually meeting someone for the first time.
  • Use a Free Email Account
    This just adds an extra buffer of privacy and protection. When the emails go from anonymous exchanges to personal correspondence, a free account will keep the person on the other end away from private information. Use only a first name, or a pseudonym on the free account to avoid the tracking of any personal details.
  • Use a Cell Phone
    Landlines can be ID'd. When the time comes to use voice communication, a cell phone is a better choice. Today, there are a variety of choices that serve just as well, like disposable phones, a pay-as-you-go phone plan, or an anonymous phone service. A great option to consider is a service like Skype, which allows voice chat through the computer, without a phone being involved at all.
  • Be a Good Listener
    Whether you are conversing through email or by phone, really listen to what the other party is saying. If they avoid certain questions and always sound evasive, that is a red flag. Keep an ear out for inconsistencies and contradictions, as well. One useful tactic - ask the same question in several different ways over the course of a conversation to see if the answers remain the same each time.
  • Listen to Your Intuition
    Being a good listener includes listening to that inner voice. No matter how charming the other person seems, no matter how well-polished or pleasant they might appear, if the instinct to run comes up, listen to your instincts and run.
  • Watch out for Marriage Red Flags
    Married people will often not have a picture on their profile, and are reluctant to talk about themselves, instead keeping the conversation focused on other people. They may also have very sporadic contact with you. These are signs that the person on the other end may be married.

One last thing - paid dating sites are usually a better option because they are invested in protecting their clients. There are many free services, but when not even credit card information is required, any kind of person can slip in.

Online dating doesn't have to be a frightening thing. In fact, it can be a fun experience. It might even be a life-changing experience. Just remember to take it carefully, using a healthy measure of common sense.