Dating safety: Don’t let them steal more than your heart

When your grandparents started dating, chances are they knew each other already or had mutual friends. In those days, a blind date – going out with someone you hadn’t met or knew nothing about – was a rarity. Today, with the boom in online dating, going on first dates with strangers is commonplace, while dating a friend seems like the “old-fashioned” approach.

Plenty of people find love online every year, but when you’re dating a stranger, it’s important to take steps to ensure the only thing they steal is your heart. Online dating, and other forms of blind dating, require extra caution to protect your personal information from those who might use it without your permission.

Safely connecting online

Joining one or more dating websites can be a great way to meet people you might enjoy spending time with. Yet, nearly half of online daters fail to verify the authenticity of a potential match before communicating, according to a survey conducted by Impulse Research on behalf of ProtectMyID.

By following some basic safety guidelines, you can help ensure the experience is as positive as possible and minimize the risk of being targeted by cyber criminals who frequent dating sites.

First, be careful what you share in your profile. Never provide your full name, phone numbers, personal email addresses, home address, or other potentially identifying information such as where you work. Use the website’s built-in tools for contacting and communicating with other members.

Be wary of requests for personal information such as where you bank or what you are doing 24/7. And, be careful to not reveal potentially valuable information, such as your mother’s maiden name (a frequently used identifier for online accounts). These warnings sound obvious, but be alert that the information doesn’t reveal itself in obvious ways. Scammers might make a request for a banking recommendation, or an inquiry as to where your family is from. No matter how convincing the story, never respond to a request for money or financial information. Instead, report the individual to the website’s security team; there’s never any reason for someone you’ve just met (or haven’t yet met) to make that kind of request.

While you’re bringing so many new people into your life, keep an eye on your credit and financial accounts to ensure you detect fraud quickly. An identity theft protection service like ProtectyMyID can help you monitor your credit and know sooner if your identity has been compromised. ProtectMyID uses daily Internet scanning to determine if your information appears on suspect sites or chat rooms that specialize in trafficking stolen credit card numbers. And, identity theft resolution agents provide personal assistance to resolve new identity theft issues.

Communicating safely

Once you’ve made initial contact, be smart and cautious in your communications. Don’t exchange private emails or engage in texting or instant messaging until you’ve gotten to know the person better through the website’s protected communication methods.

When you’re ready to talk to each other, consider doing so through an online service like Skype or Yahoo Messenger, rather than exchanging phone numbers. These free services allow you to have a voice conversation over the computer without revealing something as personal as your cell phone or land line number.

Meeting for the first time

When you take the next step and meet in person, always take precautions. Meet in a public place and make sure a trusted loved one knows where you will be, who you are with and how long you expect to be there. Keep your cell phone handy and consider arranging a check in with a trusted friend.

Drive your own car to the meeting or arrange for your own taxi; don’t rely on your date for transportation. Adhere to the safety basics that you always have in place when you go out, including keeping personal items and your drink in your possession at all times and leaving unneeded ID like your Social Security card at home.

If meeting your online date requires long-distance traveling, you need to be even more careful and smart. Make sure someone at home knows your travel plans and schedule. If you’re arriving at your destination by plane, do not accept a ride from the person you’re meeting and don’t agree to stay in their home. Instead, arrange for your own rental car or taxi and stay in a hotel. Do not disclose the location of the hotel until you’ve met the person and established a level of trust.

Finally, if something doesn’t feel right or you feel pressured, end the date immediately. Trusting your gut can help protect you from an unpleasant or unsafe experience.