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Online Dating – Hazards & Best Practice Guide

Written by: Nigel Beckles, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

 

For those looking for love in the past, there were a variety of ways to try and meet someone special. You would go along to nightclubs and social events or ask family and friends to introduce you to someone they consider to be a good match. Times have changed tremendously over a relatively short period of time, and the internet has given the world online dating. There used to be a stigma attached to the idea of trying to find a potential partner online, but this method of trying to meet someone special has become widely accepted. For example, Tinder, the most downloaded dating app in the world, achieved three billion swipes in a single day in March 2020 and has since broken that record many times. Online dating services currently have approximately 413 million active users worldwide.

Research indicates that one in five people marry someone they have met on the internet, and more mature men and women over the age of 40 choose to use dating sites after being single for a period of time. Regardless of your personal opinion, the fact is the dating game is a numbers game, and your chances of meeting someone special will increase dramatically if you try online dating. One of the greatest advantages of looking for love online is you don’t even have to leave your home to begin searching for a date!


"Internet dating is the fastest, most efficient way to gather a pool of qualified candidates. It could take you a lifetime to do the investigation that the computer comes up with in seconds." ‒ Judsen Culbreth, The Boomer's Guide to Online Dating

A number of online dating sites provide Psychometric Testing to identify and match compatible partners. A thorough psychometric test questionnaire consists of approximately 200 detailed questions that measure each person’s values, general attitude, personality traits, attitude toward relationships, interests in life, and emotional make-up. The data is then scientifically analysed to reveal how the subject interprets certain situations, makes decisions, and responds to problems. This creates a psychological profile to better match people looking for love with potential partners based on their personality type and interests.


Psychometric Testing in an attempt to match couples for compatibility appears to increase the chances of meeting someone who matches your specific criteria and preferences. For example, if you want to meet someone who likes to be organized, enjoys outdoor activities, and believes in traditional family values, psychometric profiling could be very effective for refining the search and matching process. Using psychometric testing appears to increase the chances of meeting someone with a high compatibility match, but this isn’t an infallible system. Conducting research and knowing the type of answers to provide can produce a profile that is not accurate or that can even be highly misleading. This type of testing certainly can’t tell you if there will be any genuine chemistry with a potential partner, but it is worth considering to discover if there are mutually shared interests.


"Psychometric assessment allows us to take the pool of all potential partners, narrow it down and introduce only those you're highly compatible with." ‒ Dr. Gian Gonzaga, Senior Research Scientist at eharmony.co.uk.

Dating websites market their services, offering you the chance to find love at a price. One of the major hazards of using these services is they can give their members an air of legitimacy, and the assumption can be made that everyone has been vetted. Another major pitfall is having to rely on someone you have never met, to tell the truth about themselves. Some people will add highly flattering photos of themselves taken in their younger years to their profiles, which can be very different from how they actually look now. First impressions are very important and being discovered to be dishonest at the very first meeting does not inspire confidence; if a person can lie about something obvious like their physical appearance or age, it’s quite likely they will lie about other things too! If you are thinking of trying online dating, honesty is always the best policy.


Avoid lying about your age, appearance, or any other general information on your profile page. It won’t matter how well the first meeting or date goes. The fact you were not honest will not be forgotten quickly or easily. It’s also important to make sure you’re being realistic about the kind of person you would like to meet. During 2012, psychologists from Rochester University in the U.S. warned that dating websites were making people increasingly judgmental. Professor Harry Reis argued that skimming over numerous profiles can promote a "shopping mentality," resulting in people becoming excessively fussy while forming unrealistic expectations. Some people can spend weeks or even months emailing potential partners before meeting up.


Online Dating Scammers


"Scammers create a fake profile on dating sites and build up an intense relationship with their victim, grooming them before testing the waters to see if they can make some money out of the "relationship." Professor Monica Whitty of Leicester University

The internet provides a very effective method for meeting new people, but it’s also a great cover for scammers who use dating websites or social media sites such as Facebook to look for victims. A survey by YouGov (UK) interviewed 2,028 victims of internet dating fraud and the results revealed that men were just as likely to be targeted as women. Lesbians and gays were also targeted by criminals seeking to exploit those who were looking for love on dating websites. Scammers use dating websites to find victims to ‘groom’ in a fashion similar to that used by pedophiles seeking children to abuse sexually. These predators create attractive fake profiles, pretending to be genuine about wanting a relationship, and then scam money from their victims over a period of time. Professor Monica Whitty of Leicester University says the first step is usually a test to see if the victim will give them money.


Often the excuse is some kind of emergency situation, or they may even send a small gift as a token of their "affection" to sucker the victim in. This hooks the target into an imaginary relationship as the con artist begins asking for more expensive gifts or money. These criminals know exactly what to say to those who are desperate for love, and some victims can be so blinded by their desperation for a relationship that they can be deceived for a very long time. Sadly, there are also victims who are in very serious denial about what is actually happening and may even find it difficult to end contact with a scammer even after they discover their "lover" has been lying.


"One woman had been a victim three times – all on different occasions – and lost between £50,000 and £60,000. When she was told what had happened to her, she couldn’t understand why she was being called a victim." ‒ Professor Monica Whitty, Leicester University

In January 2011, it was reported that a 47-year-old divorced mother of three living in the UK had given £80,000 to her online ‘boyfriend.’ The man turned out to be part of a gang of Nigerian scam artists who were pretending to be a handsome American soldier on a dating website. The woman was scammed into taking out loans and credit cards and borrowing money from family and friends. Several months after the police told her she had been the victim of a scam, her house had to be sold to repay the debts she had built up pursuing the romantic fantasy. In a newspaper interview, she said: "Aside from losing the money, I feel like I’ve lost the love of my life. I know he wasn’t real, but the feelings were real to me, and that’s very difficult to come to terms with. Hundreds of other women must be getting conned right now." This woman was clearly lonely and desperate for a relationship, which made her easy prey for the predator scammers. She gave over a substantial amount of money to a man she had never met because she wanted to believe the illusion of having found true love instead of using her common sense. When someone is feeling very lonely and deeply desperate, they are far more likely to make very poor love choices, find themselves in unfulfilling relationships, or just end up being used and abused.


Dating Websites Alternatives


Fraudsters don’t just use online dating websites to find their victims; they also operate on social networking sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter. This technology has also introduced a new set of rules into the dating game, encouraging some women (and men) to become amateur detectives, seeking out information about potential or actual partners online. They can spend hours trying to find out if he or she is a suitable person to consider dating, continuing dating, or staying in a current relationship with, but the problem with this approach is that the information provided on Facebook profiles may not be reliable!


Some people create fake personal profiles on social networking sites or dating websites by using another person’s pictures and/or fake personal information. They are referred to as ‘Catfish’ and can waste a great deal of your time. They often trick other people into falling in love, and in some cases, those who are desperate enough can ‘date’ someone online for months or even years without actually meeting the person. Episodes of the MTV show "Catfish" (this television series features true stories and can be viewed on YouTube) provide many examples of people using fake dating profiles and the hurt they cause to others. Always remember, Facebook gives everyone the opportunity to become their own online publicist and the ability to create powerful and sometimes highly misleading profiles.

Taking control of your own image and being selective about what type of information is shared on your profile gives you and everyone else a great deal of power over how you are perceived online. Receiving inbox messages and ‘Friend Requests’ from people might flatter your ego and make you feel attractive in the short term, but pursuing these ‘invitations' can be a dangerous strategy. You should keep in mind that updating your Facebook profile with alluring or sexually provocative photos can attract the wrong type of attention. Think carefully about what types of pictures you include on your profile or online photo albums to avoid setting yourself up as a target. Whether you’re single, dating or in a relationship, never use information from a profile to assume you know what another person is thinking or doing. Facebook can give you a snapshot of a person, but it can never provide the complete story of someone’s personality. There is nothing wrong with arranging a date via Facebook or any other social networking website, but always pay attention and use your common sense!


Online Dating Mistakes


Internet dating is becoming increasingly popular and is a very effective method of meeting someone new. However, women looking for love online should avoid making the following mistakes with their dating website profiles.


Including Too Much Information On Your Profile

There is a balance to be struck between offering too much information and not enough. Supply details about what you like to do, such as your hobbies, interests, and preferred activities. This will provide an opportunity for a potential date to see if they have a shared interest with you, which can result in a response to your profile. When men and women can see what you enjoy doing, they are more likely to explore your profile further and make contact. Including phrases like, ‘I have so much love to give!’ is a major mistake. It can scare decent potential partners away as you will be seen as desperate. Describe your personality and interests instead of focusing on your desire for a relationship. If you have posted your profile to a dating website, it’s obvious you’re interested in meeting someone new to explore the potential for a relationship. Share what you enjoy doing and the things that make you passionate or even excited – which will be far more appealing and will create intrigue and curiosity about you. From a man’s point of view, there is little point in making contact with a woman if he doesn’t know if she shares the same interests – and even less if she actually doesn’t have any interests of her own. Men generally have interests or hobbies that they can pursue by themselves or with other male friends. A man who believes a woman doesn’t have interests of her own will probably assume she expects him to devote a substantial amount of his time to her and the dating process. That can be a big turn-off for the average guy.

Be careful how you describe yourself on your dating profile. Do not pronounce yourself "easy-going," "fun," "easily pleased’ or "happy-go-lucky," especially all in the same sentence! These kinds of phrases can give predators and scammers the impression that you are vulnerable and easily exploited financially. If you decide to use dating websites, it’s very important to ensure your personal information is protected. Avoid divulging too much information online, for example, what type of car you drive or details about your home address or financial situation. Do not include your cell/mobile or landline number, and never share any of your financial information, such as your bank account details. Dating websites provide an introduction service for a fee, and while you’re required to provide some personal information, this doesn’t mean revealing everything about yourself! If you connect with someone you find interesting, there will be plenty of time to share your personal information if you’re comfortable doing so. Take some time to study different profiles, as this will help you to filter out time-wasters, players, sexual predators, or scammers. There are men and women who will embellish or blatantly exaggerate their details to try to increase the number of responses they receive. Anyone who sounds too good to be true is probably misrepresenting themselves. If you decide to proceed, do so with extreme caution. It is very important to practise due diligence so you can be confident that anyone you make direct contact with online is genuine. While dating websites and apps have assisted many people to connect with genuine individuals, some people have raised serious concerns regarding their experiences. This appears to be a particular problem for women, who have reported a great deal of harassment and abuse, frequently from heterosexual men. Avoiding fraudsters or internet sexual predators is the very best way to avoid a real-life nightmare.


Avoiding The Scammers


Relationship predators use a variety of stories, and whatever you’re told will be designed to push your emotional buttons to persuade you to part with your money, so read all profiles very carefully. Pay attention to the standard of their grammar and the syntax of the emails or online chats. Is the background information he/she has provided consistent with their communication style? If you are communicating with a person online who asks lots of questions but seems vague or evasive about providing basic details regarding themselves, this should be considered a major red flag. A fraudster will probably ask for a cash payment to be made via Western Union, MoneyGram, or another money transfer company in a name that’s different to the one they use with you. If the person asks for the funds to be transferred directly into a legitimate bank account, this is where the fraudster’s contacts help to collect the money. As soon as the funds are paid in, this money will be immediately withdrawn.


If he or she appears interested in meeting up, make sure his employment details, such as their telephone number or email address, are genuine and insist on seeing some type of ID to verify his story. People are usually quite easy to find at their job, even if you only want one of their colleagues to confirm that they actually work there. A person who appears reluctant to provide their employer’s details should make you very suspicious. Make sure their home address is genuine by checking the freely available public records to see if he or she is registered at a particular address. Fraudsters often trawl the internet for addresses to use and can obtain enough information to convince someone they actually live at an address, so checking an address in and of itself is not foolproof, but it does provide a level of protection. When a potential partner insists on maintaining contact only via the internet, is difficult to speak to directly or their address details appear to be unreliable, these should all be considered very serious warning signs.


Is it wise to hand over a large amount of money to someone you’ve met for the very first time in a wine bar or nightclub? Does it seem sensible to send substantial amounts of money to an individual you have never met or to pay for an airline ticket or anything else? The answers to these questions are obvious, and yet thousands of love-hungry people all over the world fall for these scams every day! Never send money to a person you don’t know and have never met; if a person really wants to meet you, they will find a way to make it happen and pay for their own travel! Several reputable dating websites have strict controls in place and "vet" their members, but experienced fraudsters are very resourceful and frequently avoid any effective vetting procedures. Looking for love online can be extremely hazardous, with heartless predators seeking out new victims every day, so use your common sense, always trust your intuition and pay attention. If you have any doubts about a person who has contacted you via a dating website or app, you can also talk to a friend or family member to get advice on whether it is sensible to proceed. Always trust your intuition; it is always willing to guide and protect you in a variety of situations.


Online Dating Best Practice


A carefully considered, well-structured, and relatively informative personal profile will usually produce favourable responses online from potential partners with average or even high compatibility. Don’t be disheartened if your profile doesn’t generate a large number of responses at first: just continue to ‘tweak’ it and adjust certain key elements until you’re happy with it. Also, remember, quantity doesn’t equal quality; it’s better to have four or five quality men contacting you during a month and showing an interest than 40 or 50 guys, the majority of whom could be losers or even psychos. After meeting someone with potential, it can be very tempting to maintain a relationship status of ‘single,’ ‘available,’ or ‘active’ on your dating profile, trying to keep your options open. Your ego often receives a great boost when you have people still checking out your profile, showing an interest, and leaving requests to meet up. Being distracted by other possibilities is not a good idea. When you connect with someone promising online, give yourself time to explore the possibilities for a genuine friendship or relationship.

Best Practice Guidelines

  • If you begin to receive contact from website members soon after posting your profile, wait at least three days before responding, and in that time, read their profiles very carefully.

  • a trusted friend to look at the profile and give you an objective opinion.

  • If possible, use Skype, Zoom, or a similar online service, so you can see and speak to a potential date before actually deciding to meet them.

Dating websites can be great fun and present huge opportunities for meeting a potential partner, but there are pitfalls, traps, and real dangers when a person is looking for love online. It’s not much fun when you end up being ripped off, involved with a stalker, or much worse. There are many success stories of people finding love via dating websites and apps but always use your personal common sense and intuition. Being proactive and becoming involved in social activities is still one of the best ways of meeting new people. There is no point in just sitting at home while hoping that the love of your life is going to magically appear at your front door!


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Nigel Beckles, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Nigel Beckles is an Author, Certified Relationship Specialist & Coach, holds a Dealing With Narcissism Diploma and Psychology of Relationships Diploma. He is an Educator, Online Adviser and Workshop Facilitator. Nigel is a contributor to the award-winning documentary ‘Looking for Love’ available on DVD and online. He is also the creator of the podcast 'Interesting Conversations with Interesting People' featuring Interviews with Award-Winning Authors, Therapists & Relationship Life Coaches. All Podcasts Available @ Website: www.authornigelbecklespodcasts.com his work involves guiding men and women through difficult relationship issues.

 

Sources:

  • Book Extract:

‘How to Avoid Making the BIG Relationship Mistakes!’

Available @ Amazon https://amzn.to/2KqM0A0

  • How Many People Will Use Online Dating in 2022? August

3, 2022 Fact Checked by Marley Swindells

  • The Unexpected Dangers of Online Dating [11 Scams To Know] Jory MacKay

  • The Darkest Side of Online Dating

Adapted by Meredith Turits

https://www.bbc.com/worklife/article/20210623-the-darkest-side-of-online-dating

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