Recently I helped a friend sift through about 50 suitors courtesy of her online dating profile – dividing them into helpful categories like ‘marriage material’, ‘possible mullet’ and ‘serial killer’. Would-be Romeos posed in pictures with their cars (pass!), their mums (dear me!) and their cats (get me out of here!), all in an effort to woo their Ms Right.
Hilarious as that was, I was amazed at how much personal information my friend (let’s call her Beth*) might reveal while innocently plugging info into her dating profile. With my Internet safety hat on, even just her ‘name’, ‘suburb’ and ‘hobbies’ could allow a potential suitor/creepy stalker to go for a drive around her suburb looking for a red-headed runner answering to “Beth”. So with Valentine’s Day around the corner, here’s a little advice on keeping your information safe while courting online.
What you reveal can be… revealing
When choosing a dating profile name it’s best if it doesn’t include personally identifiable information about yourself, such as your name, suburb or birth year. While the undistinguishable ‘candygirl2012’ sounds a bit on the vapid side, there definitely exists a middle ground being playing it safe and playing it cool. Likewise, it’s easy and well worth creating a new email address for correspondence on dating sites – one that’s not linked to your Facebook, or worse, your place of employment.
A quick Google search on your first name and company can lead suitors to anything that might be publicly accessible, such as your surname. With your full name, a simple white pages check can uncover your home address. Even just revealing your phone number can allow searches on the reverse look up service - revealing your surname and home address.
While all of this sounds a bit on the paranoid side, it’s easy enough to avoid with a little care and scrutiny for what you put on the table to begin with.
Choose the right site
Trust your instincts
Turn things around – use the web to get sleuthy and research candidates by typing your match’s name into a search engine, finding public information or even using a paid service for a full background report. Never let the rose-tinted glasses of ‘lurve’ trick you into offering financial assistance to someone you’ve met online- regardless of how well their elaborate story checks out. Report anyone who has asked you to hand over cash or valuables, and have a read of ScamWatch to learn from those who have suffered the misfortune of thinking with their heart.
Finally, have fun, be safe and go easy on the cat pictures.
If you’d like to read more on staying safe while online dating, check out the Online Safety Series fact sheet.
*Not her real name, nor does she go running.