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Digital Dating in the Information Age
By: Caitlin Quarles
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We do our banking online, buy our groceries online, and stay in touch with friends and family online, so it’s not surprising that some of us also do our dating online. And as with everything else in the world, there are people who exploit those who turn to the Internet for romance.

According to a recent report by Glamour magazine, one in 10 men involved in online dating are not real. Not like, “said-he’s-6’3-but-when-we-met-for-coffee-he-couldn’t-see-over-the-counter” not real, but rather, a complete stranger stealing someone’s photograph and making up a completely fabricated life on various dating sites, with the sole intention of taking whatever they can get from you.

Online dating certainly has its niches — religions, military, geographical locations, long-term, short-term — which allow users to narrow down the dating field in the quest to find potential mates. Unfortunately, it also makes targeting and scamming a certain person a lot easier. Instead of just casting a wide net and hoping to reel something in, the scammers can hone in on certain vulnerabilities — grieving, a penchant for English accents — and go from there.

Obviously, not all who turn to online dating are vulnerable or insecure, and there are just as many creeps lurking in bars and — wait, where else do people meet these days? But since this is a blog relative to all things digital, we’ll stick to online dating dos and don’ts.

  • Figure out why you’re turning to online dating. Chances are, if you’re drawn to smarmy jerks that you meet at half-price, late-night appetizer night at Applebee’s, you’re going to be drawn to smarmy jerks that try to stack multiple Internet dates on either side of half-price, late-night appetizer night at Applebee’s. This is your clean slate, and it's perfectly acceptable to be picky.
  • Like Jewel said, “Follow your heart...your intuitionnnnn!” If something doesn’t sound right, it’s probably not. Ask questions! People who get defensive or ignore the questions are either hiding something or unstable; regardless, they just did you a favor. Auf wiedersehen!
  • ...your homework. Entire sites are devoted to putting the kibosh on Internet scammers, so if at any time something feels off, head on over to the Google and start researching your potential paramour.
  • Be ashamed of taking to the Internets for courtin’. We’re in the Information Age; it’s a natural progression that our social as well as love lives will be digitally streamlined. The times, they are a’changin’. If you feel like you've gotten yourself into a unpleasant situation, or you did in fact get scammed, please talk to someone. The FBI believes the number of dating scams is significantly higher because the embarrassment the victims feel prevents them from telling anyone about it.
  • Ever, ever, EVER, ever send money/expensive gadgets/naked photographs to your online suitor before you've even met them. “The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center, IC3, tells Glamour that $4,000 an hour is lost to love scams, and experts agree that the real number is much higher.” Moneygram, which has set certain precautionary red flags up, estimates they’ve terminated 4,879 fraudulent scams from online dating from going through, totaling almost 14 million dollars. That’s a sh*tload of money. If you drag your heels when it comes to lending your roommate $20 bucks, please don’t send a person claiming to be a sensitive dreamboat fighting for our country’s freedom, but currently stuck on an oil rig in Greece, your entire savings account.
So go ahead, take advantage of that free weekend advertised on EHarmony, or go explore this entire dating site devoted to people who love accents — just don’t let your guard down, and treat online dating the same way you’d safeguard your email or your online bank account information.

If this has ever happened to you or anyone you know, please share your story, either here or with the scam site mentioned above.

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About the Author
Caitlin Quarles is the founder and owner of CEQ Consulting, a freelance editorial company based in Pennsylvania. Traveling, cheese, and dogs make her happy. Find her online here.
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