The tragic case of nurse Sonia Varaschin’s death and suspicions that someone she had met online was involved has made daters especially wary of the potential dangers from these sites.
Julie Spira, best-selling author of The Perils of Cyber-Dating: Confessions of a Hopeful Romantic Looking for Love Online, is a staunch believer in online dating, but encourages women to ration their information flow when they first meet someone.
“You shouldn’t give out your last name, street address, where you work, and you should always meet in a public place,” she cautions.
Strong, smart and cautious, Meaghan (name changed to protect her identity) never dreamed she was the type of person who might get victimized by a man she met on a dating site.
“I was extremely wary of the whole process,” says the Toronto-based artist. “I only met up with people once I had chatted with them enough to get a sense of who they were and felt comfortable.”
Then she met “Peter” online.
He was kind. Handsome. Sensitive. Doting. They would spend hours on the phone, but didn’t meet in person, as Peter told Meaghan that he was out of town for a couple of weeks due to a family crisis.
“After a few weeks, he said things hadn’t progressed well with his family, and said it would be a bit longer before he was home. I didn’t care – I was patient, we had great rapport, it didn’t seem dangerous.”
Eventually, “Peter” became emotionally abusive, threatening suicide. After Meaghan ended things, he began to threaten her. She called the police and was stunned by the results of their background check. To say the least. Peter, as she knew him, did not exist.
“He was virtually untraceable,” she says. “His phone had been somehow redirected or connected through someone else’s. The woman who lived at his address never heard of him. God knows who is really in all the photos of he and his family I have. God knows who I was speaking to all that time. The cops were convinced that he lived in my city, and could potentially be a danger to me. They kept a close eye on me for a few weeks.”
Although Meaghan reported Peter to the online dating website administration, they did nothing about it. His profile is still up.
To her credit, Meaghan got right back in the game: “After the whole Peter nightmare, a very dear friend told me that it was just terrible luck, and I was hit with a random psycho. She told me not to give up on online dating.” So Meaghan asked out a boy she’d met online before Peter, although they’d never actually met up. “I knew he was a real life boy this time. And he turned out to be perfect. A date to make myself feel better turned into a long-term relationship with a wonderful man whom I love very much. ”
“Remember that online dating is a numbers game,” says Spira. “You need to play to win, so enjoy the experience. There are a lot of terrific people that you can meet in an Internet dating site.”
Playing it safe
Here are some other online dating safety tips, courtesy of Julie Spira and Cyberdatingexpert.com:
Have a friend that you can text during the date to let them know that you’re fine. Let that same friend know the screen name of who you are meeting and the site that you met on. This should be a ritual for you.
If you feel uncomfortable for any reason, leave.
Avoid late night dates. If you don’t know someone very well, late night dating and drinking may result in your safety being compromised.
Go ahead and Google your date in advance “¦ just don’t bring it up in an early conversation.
Take your relationship from online to offline as soon as possible. Otherwise, you might have a false sense that you’re in a relationship. And you never know who is hiding behind the computer screen.
Sexy Typewriter blogs about her dating failures – online and otherwise – at Sexytypewriter.com