Online Dating - How To Protect Yourself

Follow the below tips to make sure your online Valentine is the real deal, and not a scammer

Jess (29) and Damian (29) met via a popular dating website four years ago. Since first connecting online, then dating for several months, they’ve travelled the world and have now set up a life for themselves in a one bedroom flat in Alexandria, Sydney. But their road to real-life romance was not without its challenges.

“I spent a good six months on dating sites looking for love. You wouldn’t believe the kinds of things people will outright ask you without ever meeting you in person. Within the space of one online chat, I’ve had guys request my friendship on Facebook, ask me for my personal email address, phone number and on one occasion even ask for my home address,” said Jess.

While falling in love with an online sweetheart can be an exciting time, it’s important to be cautious of scammers. With most online threats, like viruses and phishing scams, people can protect themselves by using technology such as security software.

However, there is a wide array of digital dangers that prey on people’s emotions and trust, as we’ve seen with some recent public examples. These situations can be avoided by instilling common sense and knowledge, in addition to security software.

In the 2012 calendar year, Fair Trading received 72 enquiries and 93 complaints about introduction agencies (dating website). Australians lost $21 million to dating and romance scams in 2011; the average loss for a victim reporting a scam to the ACCC was more than $20,000.

“For the most part, the creepy guys are really easy to pick and avoid, but I can see how online conversations could progress to email and quickly develop into exchanges that share too much personal information.

“My advice would be to try to get to know as much about someone as you possibly can without sharing personal details, then arrange to meet them in person to get a better sense of who they are and if there is chemistry. Damo and I did that and we are thankful every day that we did!”

Norton Internet Safety Advocate Marian Merritt offers the following advice on the precautions consumers should take when looking for love online:

1. Until trust has been established, guard your heart. Never reveal personal data to someone until you meet face-to-face and are certain you can trust them. Don’t provide your full address when the city will suffice or a last name when an initial works fine.

2. Do your dating due diligence. Use search engines to make sure potential dates are who they say they are. Even a search with no results can often be a clue that the person isn’t being entirely honest.

3. Beware of love apps and other mobile dangers. Free mobile offers like compatibility tests or SMS messages with your dating horoscope may seem like a fun way to pass the time, until you discover the hidden fees. These services can also mask aggressive ad networks, known as “madware,” which sell your private data and also bombard you with promotions like an unwelcome stalker.

4. Love is a battlefield; arm yourself appropriately. As the first line of defense against online scams, use security software, such as Norton 360 Multi-Device, which is a single solution to protect all your devices. Cybercriminals are more sophisticated than ever and they’ll jump on any social trend, like online dating, to spread malware and steal your personal details.

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