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(ARA) – Long gone are the days when no one wanted to admit to frequenting online dating sites. Today, millions of Americans interact, meet, date – and even marry – thanks to dating sites. Unfortunately, not everyone you might meet online is looking for romance.

Some are looking to cheat unsuspecting love-seekers out of their valuable personally identifiable information which is then used for identity theft.

“The popularity of online dating has opened the floodgates of opportunity for identity thieves eager to capitalize on the trusting nature of individuals looking to make a personal connection,” says Jennifer Leuer, general manager of ProtectMyID. “Online daters need to take identity theft protection steps to ensure the only thing they lose through dating is their ‘single’ status.”

From paid online services to chatrooms, message boards and virtual communities, anyone looking for a mate online has many choices for finding that special someone via the Internet. Unfortunately, few adults take appropriate precautions to protect their personally identifiable information when dating online. In fact, nearly half of online daters do not take steps to verify the authenticity of a potential match before communicating, according to a 2010 survey by Impulse Research on behalf of ProtectMyID.

“Imagine meeting the ideal partner online and then discovering that his or her only motivation is to swindle financial information from an unsuspecting person,” Leuer says. “Shockingly, nearly 10 percent of those surveyed said they had provided their Social Security numbers or bank account information to people they met online.”

Even sharing such seemingly innocuous information as your full name, age, birthday and home town could give identity thieves an opportunity to take advantage of you. Nearly 30 percent of those surveyed provided their home address to a potential match, and almost 75 percent revealed their birth date.

If you’ll be looking for love online this Valentine’s Day, keep these safety tips in mind:

  • Start out by being a bit mysterious. Do not include your full name, hometown, home address, work specifics, phone numbers, educational background, and specifics about your children in your profile, and don’t share that information with a prospective match until you’ve established a level of familiarity and trust. And there is never a reason to share your Social Security number, financial information or bank account numbers with someone you meet online.
  • Investigate. Don’t assume a prospective match is always being truthful. Conduct background work on sites like LinkedIn, Facebook or Google to see if conflicting information exists. And be especially wary of requests for loans or assistance of any kind.

  • Consider enrolling in an identity theft protection product like ProtectMyID, which monitors your credit and alerts you to more than 50 indicators of fraud, allowing you to quickly know if your identity has been compromised. ProtectMyID also uses daily Internet scanning to determine if your information appears on suspect sites or chatrooms that specialize in trafficking stolen credit card numbers. Identity theft resolution agents provide personal assistance to resolve identity theft issues and help in the event your wallet is lost or stolen.

“Many people are connecting online safely, happily and successfully,” Leuer says. “By taking steps to proactively protect your identity while dating online, you can improve your chances of avoiding the wrong people while you’re looking for Mr. or Ms. ‘Right.'”

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