2013-01-02 / Entertainment

Simple Steps Can Keep You Safe Online

As more of our communications take place over the Internet, it’s no wonder that an ever-growing number of singles are meeting each other through online dating services. In fact, Online Dating Magazine estimated in 2011 that more than 280,000 marriages a year are a direct result of people meeting online.

“While your soul mate could be only a few clicks away, there are risks associated with online dating,” warns Lis Wiehl, Fox News Legal Analyst and author of the recently released novel, “Darkness Rising,” of the East Salem trilogy. “From financial scammers to criminals, strangers on the Internet are just that – strangers.”

Wiehl’s novels are inspired by her former work as a federal prosecutor and her current role as a television journalist covering some of the most shocking crimes. An expert in sniffing out the bad guys, she advises daters to proceed with caution before taking online relationships offline.

Men and women alike should take precautionary measures to help avoid dangerous dating circumstances:

Meet your date at the venue rather than have he or she pick you up – you don’t need a stranger to know where you live.

Choose well-populated public places to meet. Let a friend know where you are going. It may sound overly cautious, but it doesn’t hurt to share your date’s contact information and name as well.

Avoid exchanging too much personal information right off the bat, such as your last name and place of work. Get to know someone first.

Listen to your gut. If something feels off, be polite, but end the evening early.

Don’t believe everything you read. It is entirely legal to lie on an Internet dating site about one’s height, weight, age and financial status. If you meet someone whose description doesn't match reality, you should wonder whether your “match” would also lie about things you can't see on the surface. Be especially cautious if someone seems “too good to be true.”

Unfortunately not everyone on dating sites is looking for love. Financial scammers prey upon lonely hearts. Don’t become a victim. If you’re dating someone who suddenly starts hitting you up for cash, end it.

For more information about Lis Wiehl’s novels and nonfiction titles, visit www.LisWiehlBooks.com.

“Bottom line on online dating: be smart, be careful and above all, be yourself,” says Wiehl.

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