With Valentine’s Day every year comes the usual barrage of ads for online dating sites.

No longer taboo, online dating’s popularity is supported by a variety of stats.  But as with traditional dating, dating in the Internet era comes with its own unique risks, not least of which is the ease in which someone new can enter your life.

When someone does enter your life, here are a few ways to keep him or her from turning it upside down:

 

  • Take your time before handing out any identifiable information that could allow someone to track your whereabouts like a home address or work telephone.
  • In fact, your email can be used to track down other online profiles that may tell more about where you live or, if you’re on foursquare or a similar location-based network, where you are—at this moment! So be sure to create a new email address just for your dates.
  • Find out what you can about the person you’re interested in. A few Google searches won’t make you a stalker, and it may turn up some red flags that you’d rather not discover in person.
  • Find out what can be found out about you. Google your cell phone number—or even your first name with anything else you might say about your background, i.e., the town you’re from and what you do. You might be surprised by what comes up.
  • Disable any geotagging or other location-based data that may exist in any images you post or share.
  • Resist the temptation to add new love interests to your social networks. Not only could they be privy to too much too soon, they have the keys to wreak havoc should things not work out.

 

But this is just the beginning. Choose a reputable online dating site that offers up helpful tips of its own to keep you on your toes. And be sure to compare notes with other online daters.

You can start here. Are you looking for or have found a special someone online? What steps do you take to protect yourself?

Let’s talk about it on Twitter or Facebook. I’d love to hear from you.