The Internet is new territory, apparently. To government officials perhaps, but not when it comes to finding a partner. According to a study, 30% of relationships begin online. And many of those are made to last offline: in 2013 16.4 % of all new partnerships in Germany began with the couples flirting online. It’s great when things work out with the neighbor, but just as searching for a partner in the supermarket, bar or swimming pool isn’t without its risks, the online world has its pitfalls too. Take untruthful profiles for example. “Men make themselves taller, women younger”, that’s what a former product manager of Yahoo Dating said summarizing her experiences. These sorts of little white lies are relatively harmless as they’re easy to spot on the first date. It gets more difficult when something doesn’t add up about the job, and the chosen one doesn’t turn out to be a doctor after all, but unemployed, in debt, and on the hunt for some funding.
Cyber scammers have created an entire industry from people’s desire to be together. The “romance scammers” search the lonely hearts sites specifically for woman with whom they initially email and call for weeks at a time to establish trust only for them to then ask for money for medical treatment, medication for mom, a trip to their sweetheart’s country or whatever it may be. The meet-up itself isn’t risk-free either. Blackmail through secretly or openly filmed sex tapes has already happened more than once, just like alleged pregnancies which nobody will ever find out about if the victim contributes to the abortion costs. While this is dramatic, generally the worst thing those who flirt online have to fear is enduring an endlessly boring evening on the first date.
Here are a few simple tips that will help guard against both dangers – criminality and boredom. On the first date, meet in public and never at your home. Tell a friend, relative or your parents where you will be and arrange for them to call you at a set time so you can give them the all clear. By the way, you can also use the call to your advantage to fake an emergency and escape a boring date early.
Spam messages from those looking for love can also end up in your mailbox through no fault of your own, and people who date online are more likely to open the wrong attachment by mistake. Not every jpg image is what it appears to be, and those ominous-looking Word, PDF, and PowerPoint attachments from romance-seeking Natashas from Belarus are also best sent directly to the recycling bin. The latest version of a comprehensive antivirus software solution like Avira Antivirus Pro, Avira Internet Security Suite or Avira Free Antivirus blocks viruses, worms and Trojans and, in the best case, also evaluates websites before you click them. This minimizes digital dangers and searching for a partner online doesn’t lead to additional risks.
You should, however, pay particular attention to potential risks posed by revealing personal information. Even if endlessly long email conversations over many weeks are rather counterproductive, you should not be forthcoming with your personal information. Before you give your address and telephone number to the person you’ve been messaging, you should be absolutely sure that you won’t regret it. It’s a good idea to have a throw-away email address you only use for dating purposes. Another good tip is to stay completely within the dating provider’s web environment as it usually doesn’t allow real identities to be inferred from online identities. Above all choose the dating provider cautiously. Services you pay for sort at least some chaff, in the form of joke or fake profiles, from the wheat. All the best for your next date 😉
German study “Online-Dating-Marktreport 2013/2014” (“Online Dating Market Report 2013/2014”) – singleboersen-vergleich.de, 2014
”Vom Online-Dating zum Traualtar” (“From Online Dating to the Alter”, German survey of 827 German registry offices – singleboersen-Vergleich.de, 2013
This post is also available in: German