10 ways to avoid heartbreak with online dating services

It’s true that many people successfully find love, romance and companionship with the help of online dating services, but at the same time, it’s also true that many dating-service users experience the heartbreak of spending a whole lot of money for a whole lot of nothing. Your online dating safety begins with educating yourself on how to improve your experience and be safe doing it. Below you will find 10 ways to avoid heartbreak with online dating services:

FOR THE DATING:
1. Trust Your Gut Instinct
Your instinct is a powerful medium for knowing when something doesn’t feel right. It is also a great way to measure when to move forward with someone and when to turn and run. As you read profiles, responses to emails, have phone conversations, and meet in person your instincts help tell you if something is “right” or if something is out of alignment. The “out of alignment” message is your cue to be careful, back off, or proceed with extreme caution. Trust your gut instinct, it’s the most powerful psychological tool you have at your disposal.

2. Don’t Provide Personal Information Too Soon
Your home phone number and full name provide easy ways to track who you are and where you live. Armed with just your home phone number, a person can easily gain access to your income information, home address, and even learn the value of your home. Armed with your first and last name, a person can do searches to determine quite a bit of information on you – where you work, what you do, and even what your home phone number is. So in the initial stages of communication, guard your personal information. As far as phone communication, see the next tip.

3. Protect Your personal E-mail Address. For safety and privacy reasons, avoid sharing your personal e-mail address with anyone you meet over the Internet. Ideally the online dating service you use will offer on-site messaging and e-mail services. If that’s not the case, you can take a moment to create a separate — and free — e-mail address through Hotmail, Gmail or Yahoo! and then use that address to manage your online dating life.

4. Beware of Married People
It’s unfortunate, but a lot of married people do use online dating services. They’ll even go as far as to meet people. A few years ago, MSNBC reported that a study found that up to 30% of people using online dating services are married!

5. Ask for a Recent Photo
There’s nothing wrong in asking someone if their photos are recent. If they don’t have a photo, request a recent one. It’s important for you to get a good look at the person you may eventually meet. Plus your instincts from your communications and their photos may provide you with valuable insight into the person. Plus, if they tell you the photo is recent and you meet and see a major difference, then you’ll know the person lied and can cut the date short. If a person lies about their photo or profile then that is a red flag to no longer pursue the relationship.

6. Meet in a Public Place for Your First Meeting
When it’s time to schedule that first exciting face-to-face meeting, arrange to meet in a public place and provide your own transportation. Your initial meeting will tell you a lot about the other person, including whether or not he/she lied in their profile. Your gut instincts will kick in. Never accept an offer to be picked up at your house. Make sure that a friend knows where you are at and who you are with.

FOR THE SITE/SERVICE:
7. Know Where to Gather Key Intelligence. Before joining an online dating service — or a matchmaking service that has a fairly comprehensive presence on the Internet — take the time to read these three sections of the company’s Web site:
•The privacy policy;
•the “about us” page, and
•the “frequently asked questions” page.
These are the places where the consumer can discern the philosophy and business practices for the service. You’ll see contract information here, as well as what you’ll be on the hook for.

8. Have criteria in Mind for Online Dating Services.
Opt for a service that’s been around for a few years and that has established itself in the industry. It’s also a good idea to choose a service that lets you browse profiles and photos before you have to join so you can see what you’re paying for. Another key detail: Be sure the service offers a secure payment method. When you reach the point of payment, the site’s address should contain an “s” after the “http:”, like so: “https:”. Internet browsers also display an icon such as a gold padlock to verify that the site is secure.

9. The cost of online dating services can really add up.
You may not pay as much for an online dating service as you might for a matchmaking service — but you could over time if you’re not careful. Such services typically cost about $30 to $60 a month over the course of a specified contract period. That may sound reasonable enough, but watch out: Your membership may be automatically renewed without you realizing it. It’s important to clarify the cancellation procedures before you join. Mark your calendar so you’ll be sure not to miss any key cancellation deadlines.

10. Don’t Get a False Sense of Security
Some online dating services claim to offer “background checks” and when signing up for such a service you may find it easier to let your guard down. Don’t. Laws differ from state-to-state when it comes to background checks and there are even several states where checks can’t be effectively performed. Because of the inconsistency, criminals/wrong doers can and do get into services that do “background checks”. Never let your guard down.

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