Online dating just got a little bit safer. This week, California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris, issued a joint statement with executives from the three major dating sites (eHarmony, Match.com, and Spark Networks) outlining guidelines the companies have promised to follow to help protect the safety of online users of their sites. This news will be welcomed by the approximately 40 million Americans who use online dating sites, but every user should be aware and stay informed in order to best protect themselves from online predators.
While the guidelines are not legally enforceable, it is in the company’s interests to show they are being proactive in protecting consumers. The companies have agreed to:
This action partially resulted from a lawsuit brought against Match.com by a Southern California woman who was sexually assaulted by a man she met online. It turned out that the suspect, Jeffrey Marsalis, had 6 prior convictions and was listed on a sex offender database. In 2009, he pleaded no contest to a sexual assault charge and was sentenced to life in prison. It is not only California that is focusing on the online safety of users of dating sites. Legislation to increase online safety measures is also on the books in Connecticut and Texas.
Why People Use Online Dating Sites
These measures are becoming more necessary because of the explosion in use of online dating sites. With everybody’s lives becoming busier, people traveling more, and relocating for work, fewer people have access to family and community connections near where they live that could result in introduction to a suitable romantic partner. Single parents and people over the age of 40 may have a particularly hard time finding dates in the offline world. In fact, online dating sites have a pretty good track record. One online survey of couples married in the last three years showed that 1 in 6 had met through an online dating service. One in five people surveyed had dated someone they met online.
The Bad Guys of the Online Dating World
While online dating may be the most efficient and effective way for many people to meet a potential mate, dating strangers involves some level of risk, and the anonymity provided by the internet can make it easier for scammers and individuals with a history of violence to hide their true identities and motives.
Below are a list of online bad guys to be worried about:
There are no 100-percent-foolproof tips to avoid these online bad guys, but below are some tips to be savvier and better prepared when looking for love online:
With these tips in mind, you should be more prepared to venture into the online dating jungle. While there may be some risks involved, there are also potentially big rewards. Treat your online encounters as potential opportunities to get to know different types of people and learn more about yourself. Most importantly, work to strike a balance between being open to love and using good judgment to stay safe!
Melanie Greenberg is a clinical psychologist in private practice in Mill Valley, Marin County, CA. She is also a researcher, author, and national speaker with expertise in life stress, love and relationships, mind-body health,
Visit her new website at http://melaniegreenbergphd.com/marin-psychologist/
See her other blog http://marinpsychologist.blogspot.com