This article appears in Spring Boomers magazine.
If you’re single and ready to meet someone new, you may be considering online dating. Odds are that you know some people who’ve had great success in finding a partner this way, and others who have horror stories to share.
The truth is that online dating can be a great idea for all age groups. You can connect with people you never would have met otherwise, and you can use filters to find dates who share your values and interests.
Unfortunately, however, there are plenty of disingenuous people out there, and studies show that people over 50 are more likely to fall victim to online scams than other age groups. Even smart people can get duped, and it happens all the time.
Kelvin Coleman, executive director of the National Cyber Security Alliance, emphasized that you do need to be wary of who you’re interacting with online, and how. He provided some tips to follow.
• Watch out for scammers. “Catfishing” and “spear phishing” schemes — where someone is not who he or she claims to be, or someone gains your trust in order to steal information and money — are all too common. It’s sometimes easy to fall for scams, because sometimes we want so badly for something to be real. But if something seems too good to be true in the world of online dating, it probably is. Big red flags: If someone breaks plans repeatedly and keeps making excuses about why they can’t meet in person; if they ask you for money for any reason, including to travel to meet you; if they ask for details about you such as your birth date and address. It’s easy for scammers to pump friendly people for crucial details, Coleman says. They may, for example, say that they want to send you a birthday card, but what they really want is your home address and birth date.
• Use mainstream dating sites. If you follow a link to a dating website and it looks shoddy, or the language or photos on the site don’t look right or ring true, steer clear. If something doesn’t seem legitimate, it almost certainly isn’t. Ask friends what sites worked for them.
• When it comes time to meet someone in person, choose a public place with plenty of people around, such as a coffee shop. Do not let yourself be talked into meeting inside a private residence when meeting someone you don’t know. Tell a friend where you are going and with whom, and check in with them during the date.
• Don’t overshare! Guard your personal information until you know exactly what kind of person you are dealing with. Know your privacy settings on the dating site. Until you’ve done your due diligence and learned about a person you want to see, do not give them more information than they need.
• Not using a dating site anymore? Delete your profile.