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Dating sites provide their users an opportunity to conveniently and efficiently take control of their dating life, but it is important to verify the security of the sites you choose investing too much time or money in them.

Try a paid dating site
People paying an online dating subscription are more likely to be serious about finding love than people who are unwilling to pay. Paid dating sites also tend to have a much more extensive screening process involved with signing up. Most sites will remove users that do not have verified profiles or who provide too little information about themselves. To make sure the site you’re investing in is secure, look for a logo that indicates the site is verified, has a positive SSL, which ensures verified online transactions; and/or is a member of the Online Dating Association (ODA), which protects privacy and puts emphasis on reporting abuse. Also, look for a lock to the left of the URL in the browser, this indicates the site is secure. The following three suggested sites are all approved by at least one or all three of these verification mechanisms.

Match.com makes it easy for you to report any inappropriate activity with your account. If you have interacted with a suspicious user, it is simple to anonymously report them using the Report a Concern link which is easily found on your profile. The concerns are addressed directly by the customer service team to ensure a quick, efficient and personal response. Visit Match.com »

One secure feature unique to eHarmony is the Secure Call, which allows subscribers to make phone calls without revealing either person’s phone number. The user can connect any phone number that is convenient for them to use, and can decide which matches can connect and call. Getting to know a match over the phone is a better way to communicate with a potential partner because it lessens the risk of miscommunication and misreading so common to online messaging or texting. Speaking on the phone may also provide you the opportunity to make a better judgement of the match, and decide whether they are worth meeting in person. Visit Eharmony.com »

This site provides some of the most extensive information about their security and boasts its use of the most trusted and secure encryption technologies. Their Trust and Safety link clearly lays out the ways the site is secure and describes how to visually see the security as you’re using the site. EliteSingles also has a team who personally check each profile entry and photo prior to being posted to keep the site clean and safe. Visit Elitesingles.com »

Badoo is one example of a casual, online and unpaid dating site which connects users via their social media accounts including Facebook, Twitter or MSN. The goal of the site is to connect users in a fun and casual way: using messaging, video messaging, and games to connect people of all ages. Badoo is an active member of the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF), and provides extensive information on its site to help its users stay safe and secure while using its features to meet people online or in person. Visit »

What’s the hold up?
Dating is an incredibly emotionally vulnerable experience; it requires putting your feelings on the line in hopes of finding someone you can connect with. But when you choose to date online, your vulnerabilities are enhanced, and you expose yourself to other potential risks you should be aware of.

Financial exploitation
Subscribing to a paid online dating site involves entrusting the site with your credit card information as well as other personal information. If the site is not verified or secure, this can leave you susceptible to scamming.

Privacy exploitation
The profile set-up on dating sites requires personal information, including photos of yourself. Insecure sites that have no privacy policies or verification processes have the potential to publish or release your photos or information for profit.

Emotional exploitation
Catfishing (someone luring another into an online relationship under a false persona) is also a risk of online dating. Sites allow subscribers to supply as much or as little information about themselves as they choose–granting scammers the opportunity to gain the trust and attachment of vulnerable users in order to coerce them into giving away personal or financial information.

Warning signs
If you’re unsure about the security of the site you’re using, keep your eyes open to any suspicious activity and never be too vulnerable to deception.

Asking for personals
If a person is asking for any money, personal information, or explicit pictures of you–especially early on–it is likely there is some form of exploitation being attempted.

Meeting too far or too near your residence
It is also a good idea to start locally when meeting with online dates. This lessens the vulnerability and risk that comes along with travelling long distances to meet with a match. At the same token, it is unwise to allow a match to meet with you in your home or very near your home during the first meeting. Instead, maintain mutual territory and secure your safety.

Less serious, less secure
In general, sites geared toward casual relationships are likely to be less secure because there is generally less screening, and individual clientele motivation is varied and less straightforward.

If you can’t pay, be cautious
When using unpaid online dating sites, look for sites that are connected to social media. Social media platforms can act as a poor man’s identity verification, but this should still not be trusted as an end-all be-all solution to security verification.

Be your own advocate
While online dating, the screening process is ultimately up to you. Use your best judgement in the situations you’re presented with, and follow the basic rules to avoid exploitation. Never post or message anything you wouldn’t want others to see or read because no matter how secure the site, leaking and bugging via viruses and hacking are always a possibility. Before signing up or subscribing to any site, take the time to read and understand their Privacy Policy and Terms of Agreement– you won’t regret it.

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