An estimated 323 million people around the globe use internet dating services. More and more people are no longer considering it taboo to meet and build lasting relationships online.
However, not all relationships end in “happily ever after” like Bennylyn Aquino-Burke, who met her would-be murderer on the dating site Filipino Cupid.
Andrew Innes targeted younger Asian women and joined 34 internet dating sites. He put together a spreadsheet of the women he met online and categorized them according to age, height, weight, and whether they had children. Women in their mid to late 20s with young children received the highest scores.
Bennylyn, 25, and her daughter Jellica, 2, went missing in February 2021 and were found a month later, buried under Innes’ kitchen floor in Dundee, Scotland.
According to data from the UK’s National Crime Agency, serious sexual offenses related to online dating have been steadily increasing from 2003 to 2021. Eighty-three percent of the victims were female, 42% of whom were between the ages of 20 and 29. However, these figures are most likely lower than the actual number.
Data from the UK’s Office for National Statistics show only 17% of cases are reported. The pandemic has exacerbated this trend.
You may be looking for a genuine connection, but many cybercriminals prey on this vulnerability to extort money or steal identities. To stay on the safe side, always stay alert and don’t let emotions cloud your judgment when engaging in online dating.
Your Online Persona
When you sign up, choose a username that cannot be directly associated with you. For example, don’t use your full name or initials combined with your birthday. Don’t reveal too much about yourself on your profile.
Make sure that the person you are talking to is who they claim to be, and not using someone else’s profile photo and details to lure you into a trap.
A good way to verify their identity is to engage them in a call, preferably a video call, so you can confirm that the person in the pictures matches the person on the other end of the line.
Even if you have reached a degree of trust, don’t give away your important data, including your full name, the full names of your family members, your bank account details, your phone numbers, and your exact address.
Don’t give away your photos. If you feel uncomfortable with requests to send or receive photos, especially of a sexual nature, end the relationship.
When interacting with someone online, use the same precautions you would use in everyday life. The rules don’t change just because your method of communication is different.
If you feel pressured or harassed in any way, express your displeasure. If the person on the other end displays behavior that you wouldn’t normally excuse, such as rudeness, offensive language, or inappropriate demands, end the conversation.
If you detect any shady characters, stop communicating with them and report them to the dating site.
You can find more important reminders here.
Many of the things to remember when using the internet in general also apply, such as keeping your passwords safe and updating them often, keeping your antivirus and anti-malware software up to date, and being careful not to open any attachments sent to you.
Always set the first meeting in a well-lit, public place. No matter how optimistic you are about the person you’ll meet, plan for a short date, such as having coffee together or a walk in the park. Huwag na mahiya!
To be on the safe side, end the date in public as well. If there are sparks in real life during your first meeting, then you can plan for subsequent dates.
Romance fraud: While love, at first sight, can happen, be cautious if someone you have just met starts declaring their love for you in a hyperbolic manner within a few days of the meeting.
Scams: Be wary of anyone who offers you a good investment or business opportunity, expresses a desire to see you but also has money problems, or tries to lure you into a get-rich-quick scheme. Have you not seen Tinder Swindler? Find out more here.
Abuse: Do not tolerate any form of abuse, whether it is verbal, physical, or emotional. If someone you met online attacks you or threatens your life because you refuse to send them compromising photos, videos, or important personal information, it’s time to say “Bye!”
Downright falsity: Verify the identity of the person you are talking to by becoming an amateur detective. Ask about the weather where they are located or engage in a phone call. It is easy to check online for the weather to confirm their location. If the number they call from is hidden or has a different country code than where they claim to be, then there may be other things they are lying about.
Of course, there are also success stories in online dating:
- Carmela met Luca through a social media group for like-minded creatives. They hit it off immediately and eventually started talking one-on-one online. After three years of maintaining a long-distance relationship, they decided to get married and now have a son and live in Italy.
- Marissa met Giovanni through a dating site and they are now married and living in Ireland.
- Sally met Francois through a dating app and they are engaged to be married in France later this year. (Note: These are not their real names.)
There are risks, so, it’s important to take precautions and stay informed of the steps to take in case of any dangers. – Rappler.com
(Mari-An C. Santos is an Aries Rufo Journalism fellow. This article is co-published with the UK-based website for Filipinos, Tinig-UK.com.)
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