Most people who are using an online dating site will tell you that their goal is to get off of it as soon as possible. But you have to get on before you can find success, so if you’re just starting, you picked a good time. The two months between Christmas and Valentine’s Day see the biggest increase in new membership signups.
Here’s what you need to do to get started: Decide if you want to join a free site or buy a subscription; choose a site that’s appropriate for you from general mega-sites to niche-interest; fill out a series of questions to build your profile; upload some flattering photos; look through the choices and maybe contact a few; then hope for the best.
This Valentine’s Day, also be wise. Apart from the cybercrooks who leave a trail of broken hearts and empty bank accounts described below, be aware that discerning truth from fiction in online dating can be a challenge.
Exaggerating the facts
People embellish the truth often on online dating sites, like the guy who said he was 5’10” (177cm), and then turned out to be shorter than his date at 5’7” (170cm), or the guy who described himself as “athletic and toned,” but was actually shaped like a turkey leg. Or the ones who post a photo of themselves from 10 years (and 40 pounds) ago.
Lying is no use, because eventually you will be found out.
Online dating takes the fact that hopeful people jump to conclusions to a high art. Being both an animal and water fan, I got excited about a guy who said, “I live on a horse farm, and have a house at the river” in his profile. He was entirely truthful – it was my assumption that let me down. Yes, he did live on a horse farm – someone else’s horse farm – over the barn. And he does have a house at the river – not on the river like I hoped, but in the little town named after the river. And it’s not really his, but belongs to his family. And they want to sell it.
If you want to avoid disappointment, keep your expectations low, then be delightfully surprised when you are proved wrong.
It mostly happens in London, but I have seen it happen in Manila and Madrid too. My friends seem to travel a lot, and according to the tear-drenched emails, they have a tendency to get mugged. You might have seen it too – the “Stranded Traveler” message from a friend that goes something like this:
I’m writing this email with tears in my eyes, I came down to London for a program unfortunately, i was mugged at the park of the hotel where i stayed, all cash, credit and cell were stolen off me but luckily for me i still have my passport with me, I have no access to my account. I have been to the embassy and the police here but they are not helping issue at all and my flight leaves tomorrow night but i am having problems settling the hotel bills and the hotel manager won’t let me leave until i settle the bills. Am freaked out at the moment. I need about 2,250 pounds or any amount you can lend me to sort-out the bills, i will refund you as soon as i get back home.
I remember the first time I saw the message. It alarmed me with its urgency, and I felt compelled to help my friend get out of the mess. Questions about how to wire money to her darted through my mind. But then I remembered that I had just seen her post something on Facebook hours before, and she was most definitely not in London getting mugged.
Here’s what happened: Cybercrooks hacked into my friend’s Facebook and Yahoo accounts. They stole her identity, address books, changed her passwords, then sent out a message to all of her contacts using her email address.
This scam has happened so frequently, and there have been so many complaints, that the FBI issued a warning – over 2 years ago! Amazingly, the scam is still making its way through cyberspace (our CEO received one the other day), and the FBI says that they now have about 150,000 complaints on file. ABC’s Nightline actually answered one of the emails this summer and tracked what happened next. Read their account and watch the video here.
To avoid being a victim of this scam
- Secure your passwords on all your email and social media accounts. If you have lots of user names and passwords to remember, you might like a password management system like avast! EasyPass.
- Avoid clicking attachments in unknown emails.
- If you get an email like this, call your friend to verify the authenticity of the message.
- Scam victims should file a complaint with the FBI at www.ic3.gov.