Online Dating: Keeping Yourself Safe

Whether it’s looking for a companion or a new life partner, an increasing number of older adults are turning to the internet to find a match. In fact, senior dating is the fastest growing subsection of online dating.

While the vast majority of people using dating sites are sincere and honest, there are exceptions. According to the Better Business Bureau, romance scams typically happen online, and the targets are most often recently widowed or divorced individuals over the age of 50.

“The Romeo Scam is a real danger that seniors need to be aware of when dating online,” says Mark Matz, Director of Policy and Issues Management with the National Cyber Security Directorate at Public Safety Canada.

“What happens is they’re approached by someone through an online dating website or sometimes a social networking site who seems like a great person, with similar interests, but they’re only interested in defrauding them,” Matz noted. “Playing with the feelings of older people who are looking for companionship is more common than you think.”

Here are some tips from Public Safety Canada on how you can keep safe while searching for relationships online:

  1. Not all dating sites are created equal; some attract more cyber-criminals than others. The first line of defense in protecting yourself is decreasing the possibility of fraudulent encounters. Before creating a dating profile, do online research to find the safest and best website for your needs. It’s also a good idea to talk with friends and family members to get some advice and tips on what sites to join.

  2. When creating your online profile you’re probably more concerned about attracting the person of your dreams, but you could end up attracting your worst nightmare. Be careful to not provide too much personal information on your profile, such as where you work or your favourite restaurants.

  3. It’s also a good practice to set all online profiles to private, so that your personal information can’t be easily accessed.

  4. It’s a lot easier for someone to create a false identity online than you may think. To help tell the difference between someone looking to win your heart and someone looking to harm it, pay attention to the following red flags:

    • Expressing a lot of emotion and affection right away.
    • Asking to move conversations to personal e-mail or instant messaging.
    • An inability to meet in person, because of a misfortune or business travel.
    • Asking for financial help with bills, airplane tickets or other personal situations.

  5. Scammers are savvy, and many of them will try to take advantage of a sympathetic individual. Remember that someone truly looking for companionship would not steer the conversation towards finances right away. If at any point you’re asked for a money transfer, you can report the user to the site immediately and block them. There’s never a reason to communicate any financial information such as your social insurance, bank account and credit card numbers.

Following these precautions can help ensure you have a safe and enjoyable online dating experience. And if you do decide to meet someone in person, choose to do it in a public place, as well as let a friend or family member know where you’ll be.

The internet also has become a popular source for entertainment. Learn more about how to stay safe in the online gaming world.

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