I was recently became very concerned for the online security of my friend. Fresh out of a long-term relationship, she is full of energy at the thought of new romantic prospects and all the flirtation that she is free to indulge in now. However, she is a little out of practice and a little under-confident. So it’s perfectly natural that the first place she looks for romance is on the Internet.
Her choice alarmed me, but not because I think that it is wrong to begin dating via the internet; I’ve tried it myself and I know of many success stories. The thing that worries me about my friend is that she goes about it the wrong way and has an oblivious attitude to the pitfalls of looking for a partner online.
I tried to warn her, but she’s so romance struck that she doesn’t care. That’s bad news.
My friend has discovered that there are an awful lot of people seeking romance and flirtation online and that some of them are very forward indeed. First she was contacted by a very nice, interested man, who turned out to be married. ( It’s a good thing she searched for him on Facebook.) Yet this hasn’t discouraged her from trusting people. She still responds to messages from ‘friendly’ strangers on her instant messaging client or unsolicited Facebook friend requests, particularly when the messages seem to be from young men who cannot flatter her enough.
No, no, no.
I’m happy for her to have as much fun online as she wants to, but I really wish she would be more savvy about the risks.
The main issue with online dating is the scams that target the love-struck victims. I found a good list of these on Hot Scams.
(As an aside, the dubious-looking Google Ads for dating sites that show on the Hot Scams pages both disturb and amuse me. They are exactly the kinds of link that you should run through F-Secure’s online link checker before you click on them).
Dating scams are getting more and more common. Your new ‘love’ will try to get you to call them (on a premium rate number), to bail them out of trouble, to share your bank details, to send them a phone (so that they can call you) and so on. They won’t do it immediately. They will get you hooked first. Once you are hooked, they can convince you to help them rob you.
Next up, there is a small chance that by giving your details away to a stranger online you could put yourself at risk. Perhaps you would make a good target for bribery. For example, you are flirting while married or have a job that requires you to maintain a spotless reputation. Or else, perhaps things will go too far and what you thought was just internet flirting leads to your having a stalker who tracks you down and tries to advance the relationship offline beyond what you could have expected .
In addition to the financial threats and the small chance that you will put yourself in physical danger, falling prey to many of these dating scams can be embarrassing. Imagine your friends finding out you were one of the women who fell for the US Army scam; or having to be as brave as the woman who admitted to losing 10,000 dollars because she fell in love online; or having to tell your boss that the intimate conversations that were e-mailed to him were part of a bribery attempt. It’s easy to assume that you would never be that unwise, but things look different when you are falling in love.
On a more positive note, as I mentioned, I do know of online romance success stories – romances started through games, interest groups and even local dating sites. These are examples of people who did things right. They took their time getting to know one another, met in a safe public place and built their trust and relationship over time.
I’m still going to suggest that my friend goes to the pub or joins a group offline. I’m sure her self-confidence will increase soon. Then she’ll be able to enjoy the benefits of dating in-person, where she has more experience and is a bit more savvy.