Online dating is a good example of how the internet makes our world smaller or limitless, depending on your view. People do business, make friends and find the loves of their lives online. The one you find may be the boy or girl next door, except next door may mean the next state. One major downside standing between you and happiness is your safety.
Using common sense and some due diligence doesn't have to kill the romance, and you want roses, not rose-colored glasses anyway. Be aware of the risks and dangers of online dating, social and dating web site polices and practices, and the limits of the law.
Is Your Date Dashing or Dangerous?
One major risk of online dating is it's likely you don't share some physical or local community or shared relationships with your new romantic interest. Meeting people online means you may not share common locations, schools, jobs, religious or social circles, making it harder to learn about or confirm someone's true life story.
You could be risking your personal safety or falling prey to a financial scammer when you use online dating services. Your age, sex or background doesn't matter. Some examples:
- Your internet date meets you in a public place, and suggests getting in the car to go someplace else
- Your new friend drugs you by slipping something in your drink when you meet "in real life" for the first time
- What you "see" online isn't what you get – it's common for people to massage the truth or outright lie about themselves ranging from physical description and age to education and work
- An online acquaintance may use your new romance to steal from you, with or without your knowledge
It could very well turn out that your online date is the love of your life, just use caution and common sense before your heart takes over.
The Law Isn't a Chaperone
Several states do have laws regulating online services, and more have bills in the works, including Connecticut, Texas, New York, New Jersey and Florida. State laws typically center on notices dating services must give consumers, such whether or not they run criminal background checks.
Some laws require advising members of general safety practices, such as not revealing info on your full name or complete addresses or phone numbers.
Some online services have responded to security concerns with steps such as member screening against the national sex offender registry. One site's policy change followed a lawsuit by a member who was sexually assaulted by her online date.
Use Common Sense and Staying Online
Online dating can bring new people, relationships and opportunities into your life. The next wedding you attend, or new face at your family's holiday gathering may be all because of online love. Doing your best to keep yourself safe doesn't have to spoil things.
It's up to you, however, to size up your situation and decide whether to go ahead and bring someone new into your life. Some suggestions as you get to know someone:
- Don't rush to give out too much personal information
- Use caution and select a safe public place if you choose to meet someone in person
- Know it's okay to confirm someone's information, whether it's checking up on addresses, phone numbers and licenses, reviewing state attorney general consumer help sites, or using paid information services or licensed private investigators
Use your lawyer's help to complete steps for those major life events, such as buying or selling a home, changing your will or coming up with a premarital agreement if online dating leads to someone who is a keeper
Questions for Your Attorney
- What is the law on investigating someone - how far can I go, and can I keep an investigation private?
- I'm worried about my safety due to someone I met online. Can I get a restraining order that covers physical, online and phone contact?
- What happens if I use an online dating service and the other person turns out to be underage?