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Tips for Protecting Yourself

Start slow

Watch out for someone who seems too good to be true. Begin by communicating solely through the email system provided by the online dating site, then look for odd behavior or inconsistencies. The person at the other end may not be who or what he or she says. Trust your instincts. If anything makes you uncomfortable, walk away for your own safety and protection.

Guard your anonymity

Never include your last name, email address, home address, phone number, place of work or any other identifying information in your profile or initial messages. When corresponding with someone, use a free email from Yahoo or Hotmail and don't use a signature file. Stop communicating with anyone who pressures you for personal information or attempts in any way to trick you into revealing it.

Exercise caution and common sense

Careful, thoughtful decisions generally yield better dating results. Guard against trusting the untrustworthy; suitors must earn your trust gradually, through consistently honorable, forthright behavior. Take all the time you need to test for a trustworthy person and pay careful attention along the way. If you suspect someone is lying, he or she probably is, so act accordingly. Be responsible about romance, and don't fall in love at the click of a mouse. Don't become prematurely intimate with someone, even if that intimacy only occurs online. If you mutually decide to cross the point of no return, be smart and protect yourself. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provide some of the most current information available about sexually transmitted diseases and preserving your health.

Do a little digging

Do your own research on potential love matches. Get as much info as possible by asking questions, utilizing Internet search engines, and most importantly, using common sense. Nothing is 100% reliable; just remember to use your head as well as your heart. (By the way, if you want to look into background checks on your own, simply perform a search using your favorite Internet search engine - many companies supply them!)

Request a photo

A photo will give you a good idea of the person's appearance, which may prove helpful in achieving a gut feeling. In fact, it's best to view several images of someone in various settings: casual, formal, indoor and outdoors. If all you hear are excuses about why you can't see a photo, consider that he or she has something to hide.

Chat on the phone

A phone call can reveal much about a person's communication and social skills. Consider your security and do not reveal your personal phone number to a stranger. Try a cell phone number instead or use local telephone blocking techniques to prevent your phone number from appearing in Caller ID. Only furnish your phone number when you feel completely comfortable.

Watch for red flags

Pay attention to displays of anger, intense frustration or attempts to pressure or control you. Acting in a passive-aggressive manner, making demeaning or disrespectful comments or any physically inappropriate behavior are all red flags. You should be concerned if your date exhibits any of the following behavior without providing an acceptable explanation:

* Provides inconsistent information about age, interests, appearance, marital status, profession, employment, etc.

* Refuses to speak to you on the phone after establishing ongoing, online intimacy.

* Fails to provide direct answers to direct questions.

* Appears significantly different in person from his or her online personal.

* Never introduces you to friends, professional associates or family members.

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