How to Protect Yourself When Meeting People Online
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A catfish is someone, who pretends to be someone they are not. They create false profiles (identities) on social media websites like: Facebook, Myspace, Match.com, Twitter, and Instagram, with the intention of pursuing fraudulent online romances (Urban Dictionary, 2015).
Are you seeking love online? Have you talked to your potential partner on the phone? Have the two of you met in person? Well, if you are seeking love online and you have not talked on the phone and/or met in person, you may be the victim of “catfishing.” This is especially true, if you have been “online dating” for a while, and your love interest has made one excuse after another why he or she can’t talk to you on the phone or meet you in person. In today’s world, many people search for and find love online through online dating websites.
Some people look for love online because they do not have the time to go out and “look for a potential mate,” while others turn to a cyber-relationship because they lack social skills and/or self-confidence/self-esteem. Yet, others simply want to try a new approach to dating. Regardless of the reason, it is important to protect yourself, if you decide to try online dating. So, how do you know if the person you “love” is really the person he or she professes to be? Well, today is your lucky day because this article is going to teach you how to protect yourself from scammers.
***Always be cautious and safe when meeting someone online.
Listed below are ways to protect yourself from being “catfished”:
Don’t Give Out Personal Information
If you aren’t quite sure, if you are talking to the “real” person online, do not give out your personal contact information. It is important to remember that you do not know, who is sitting in front of the computer, therefore you need to be cautious when sharing things with that person. For instance, you may think you are “chatting” online with a Brad Pitt look-a-like (based on his profile picture) when in actuality you are “chatting” with a self-conscious middle-age housewife.
Or, you may think you are “chatting” online with a young adult female, when in reality you are “chatting” with an underage girl. So, be cautious, and do not reveal too much about yourself too soon. In other words, do not disclose your full name (first and last name), address, work location, or where you are at the present time to your cyber love until you have talked on the phone and met in person (in a public location).
Perform a Background Check
This may sound extreme, and a little “cray-cray,” but if you want to protect yourself from being “catfished,” you may want to consider performing at background check on your potential mate. Although a background check may cost money (between $20 and $100 or more), it may be worth it to protect you from scammers and dangerous people. If you feel comfortable, tell your online suitor that you would like to have a background check performed on him or her. If he or she becomes irate, explain to him or her that you will feel safer, before meeting him or her, knowing that he or she does not have a criminal background. If your potential suitor criticizes you for asking, simply do go out with him or her. Why? Well, if he or she has nothing to hide, why is he or she so angry? If you do not feel comfortable telling your cyber love you plan to have a background check performed on him or her, then don’t tell him or her, but pay attention to the results of the check.
If your online mate has been dishonest with you, definitely do not go out with him or her. What other things is he or she hiding from you (i.e. appearance, relationship status, employment, etc.)? If you decide to go out with your online mate, regardless of the background check results, then you may be risking your life. Beware that the person, who shows up to meet you may not be the same person on his or her dating profile page. Be safe, meet in a public place, and take a friend or two with you.
Check the Phone Number & Address
If you have your online mate’s phone number and address look it up on whitepage.com. In other words, you can protect yourself from being “catfished” by putting your online mate’s phone number and address into a “people” finder like: whitepages.com. Does your cyber love’s name pop up? If not, there is a good chance that the person you are actually talking to is not who you think you are talking to. Note: The phone number and address may belong to your online mate’s mother, sibling, father, etc., but you will not know for sure unless you have a background check performed on him or her.
You can ask your online mate, but be prepared for him or her to be “offended” and angry. Plus, if he or she is lying to you, don’t expect him or her to admit it – because that will not happen. If you decide to continue talking to him or her, or meet him or her in person, be careful. As mentioned above, meet at a public place, and take a friend or two with you. If taking a friend with you to meet your online suitor is not an option – tell a friend or two where you are going, who you are going with, when you should be back home, and what his or her name is. Once you get to your location, if possible, text his or her license plate number to those same friends. Be smart, if you decide to meet someone you have only spoken to online.
Search the Profile Picture
A good way to protect yourself from a “catfisher” is to place his or her picture in the Google Images search box. If that same profile picture appears multiple times, on various sites, attached to different names – there is a good chance that he or she is hiding something from you. In other words, unfortunately, you may be the victim of “catfishing.” There is no reason for your online mate to have multiple profiles on various dating sites. In addition, if you are being “catfished” you may find your online mate’s picture on various modeling sites.
If this occurs, your online mate most likely stole the picture off the site and used it as his or her profile picture. You do not want to date someone who steals other people’s pictures. Do not confront your online mate on the phone, and especially not in person. Why? Well, you don’t really know the person you have been “chatting” with like you thought you did. He or she could be dangerous, and you do not want him or her coming after you. Simply “fade out.” In other words, gradually stop talking to him or her until he or she is completely out of your life.
McMullen, L. (2013). Tips for safe and healthy online dating. U.S. News: Health. Retrieved from http://health.usnews.com/health-news/health-wellness/articles/2013/02/13/tips-for-safe-and-healthy-online-dating
MTV. (2015). Catfish: The tv show. Retrieved from http://www.mtv.com/shows/catfish/
Urban Dictionary. (2015). Catfish. Retrieved from http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=catfish