The vast majority of online daters genuinely just want to have some fun finding someone special – but there are some rogue elements out there on the Internet. As in any aspect of life, you need to take care of yourself.
Barbara (34) and Martin had been mailing for several weeks and things were looking promising, but the first date was a bit of a disappointment for her. When she texted Martin to say that she preferred not to take things futher, he started to bombard her with angry emails. Then she started getting strange phonecalls at home: the other person just hung up as soon as she answered - and she hadn’t even given Martin her number.
Keeping your eyes open
Barbara had an unlucky experience - the kind of thing you will come across on rare occasions, whether on the Internet or in ‘real life‘. If you want to find love, you have to let new people into your life, so you can’t let mistrust get the better of you. Respected online dating agencies like Parship try to protect their members as much as possible, but you still have to take responsibility for your own safety - so take things carefully as you get to know new people.
One of the big advantages of Parship is that it preserves your anonymity. Only when you feel you can trust someone you’ve met on the service do you need to reveal who you are. In particular, you shouldn’t be in a rush to give any detailed or traceable information - such as your surname (or even your first name, if it is very distinctive), your home address or your exact workplace. You don’t even have to expose your email address, since you can use Parship’s on-site messaging system, which keeps you safely concealed behind a usercode. If, as things progress, you would prefer people to contact you via an email address, set up an account on Hotmail or Googlemail under a generic username.
Keep your wits about you
It can be surprisingly easy to ‘give yourself away’ unintentionally. For instance, Web-based email providers (like Hotmail) often transmit the name under which the account has been registered - in other words, that name will appear as the sender of the mail. You can block this function - or simply register under a pseudonym of some kind. Parship’s on-site system will never transmit your name and it won’t transmit your chosen Parship username either. That remains purely for your use when you log in. All that other members will see is the anonymous usercode, supplied by Parship, or the nickname they might have given you to make you more recognisable among their recommended partners.
Remember too that a detailed description of yourself might also supply very clear clues as to who you are. If you live in a small town and are a Japanese interpreter, for instance, it could be simple to find out who you are by doing a bit of research in the Yellow Pages or on the Internet. So, make sure you retain just a little mystery!
Making a mutual connection
So, a degree of caution is advisable, but you can only build up trust if you reveal something of yourself to the other person. The rule her is that it’s a two-way process. If someone wants to know where you live or to see your photo, they should be prepared to return the favour. If not, then you have every right to feel a little suspicious. And be ready to exercise a little vigilance and wisdom … Does the other person contradict himself/herself from one email to another? Does he or she get uncomfortable or evasive when you ask for details? If your gut instinct tells you that there’s something not quite right, then ask a few more questions - and if you’re not happy with the answers, break off your contact with him or her. Even if the situation is exciting, try to maintain some objectivity and, if you are unsure about anything, ask a friend for advice.
If someone seems interesting, then it seems a good idea to talk to them on the phone, but it can present a challenge if you want to maintain your anonymity. Maybe the person has given you his or her number. If you call - from you mobile, of course - make sure to switch off the facility that transmits your number to the receiving phone. If you’re thinking about handing out your number, remember that your landline number can be traced via various Internet-based services. A mobile number or even your office number is better, but remember that a mobile number can be used to trace your name and address via what is called a reverse search. Check with your mobile service provider whether this can be done with your number. If so, use another number.
There is always the risk that a conversation could lead to your receiving unwanted calls, so if you really want to play safe, use a friend’s or colleague’s number and tell your ‘date’ that you are doing this. If you do use your own line, make sure that your standard voicemail message on that line doesn’t carry your full name.
A great idea is to get a prepaid card from your mobile service provider; this gives you a phone number you can use exclusively for your online dating activities, and which you can easily jettison.