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Looking online for a person to share your life with can be convenient, casual, and pressure free. However, before you venture into online dating, there are a few precautions you should consider.
Make sure that your computer security software is up-to-date. This includes having a firewall, updated anti-virus software, and the most current operating system updates. This will help to protect your computer from becoming infected by viruses and/or malware that are often spread via website browsing. To update your computer’s security visit charter.com and download the Charter Security Suite™.
Choose a reputable site.
There are numerous online dating resources available; some are more reputable than others. Be sure to thoroughly research your options and choose one based on site credibility, subscriber privacy policies, and your individual needs. Some sites even require a background check before registration - the more precautions the better.
Privacy is paramount!
When building your online profile, do not share any more information than absolutely necessary to reach your goal. Always exercise discretion and caution with respect to your personal information. If you have children, seriously consider their privacy as well as your own. You may want to hold off on posting your children’s pictures on an online dating site where they could be stolen or misused. There is always the chance to share those pictures directly with another person, when you find a match. Consider safety and never use your full name, or include where you live, work, or hang out. Consider setting up a separate email address to use solely for your dating communication.
Reviewing your prospects, communicating and sharing information.
Do not believe everything you read or see; people can be anything they want to be online. Take your time and carefully review profiles that interest you. When communicating via email or instant message, make sure to keep a copy of all communication, so that you can review and compare the information you have been given for consistency. Conflicting information could be an indicator that this new acquaintance is not being honest. Always, keep your personal safety and privacy in mind.
The following tips from About.com may help you identify a dating scam1:
- Communication is vague, difficult to understand, or is repeated.
- Immediate (within 15 minutes) responses are received every time you send a message, with no discussion beforehand as to when you'll be online.
- Email messages change in tone, language, style or grammar throughout the communication. This could evolve over time, or it could be apparent in just one email.
- A sob story is shared early on that changes quickly from an annoyance into an emergency - and only you can help.
- A telltale internet dating scam sign: being asked to cash someone's check or money order for them, or being asked outright for money.
If your instincts cause you to be suspicious, stop communicating immediately.
The final step - meeting in person!
So, you have done your due diligence and you feel comfortable in choosing to actually meet your new friend face-to-face. This can be both scary and exciting at the same time, but it’s no time to throw caution to the wind! Experts recommend meeting in a public place, and bringing a friend with you. Alternatively, you could make sure that a friend knows your plans and when to expect you back. Bear in mind that the person you are meeting should also be following the same precautions. Take it slow, never agree to leave with your new friend. If you are lucky, you have made a good choice and there will be plenty more opportunities to get acquainted in the future. Visit http://www.us-cert.gov/cas/tips/ST06-003.html to read more about "Staying Safe on Social Networking Sites". If you are a victim of an online dating scam, you may report the crime to www.ic3.gov by clicking on "File a Complaint".
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