I first ventured into the world of online dating at 28. It was right after a break-up and I was tired of sobbing in between bites of Haagen-Dazs ice cream. With trepidation, I set up a profile to meet a potential match. I hyped myself up, selling myself like a used car dealer whose home was up for foreclosure. It was easy. Not only because I’m confident, but also because I could say anything I wanted to and the public would take my word for it. With the power of editing, the backspace button on my keyboard, and a few taps, I could become anyone that I wanted to be.
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That’s what’s terrifying about online dating. In good faith, we believe that uploaded photos are current, not from 10 years ago. We trust that she’s single or that he doesn’t have a criminal record. We welcome winks, emails, and soon enough, phone calls and dates. We place ourselves in potential danger, hoping for a love connection. And that can be dangerous.
Mary Kay Beckman, a former Match.com member, learned this the hard way. Beckman was stabbed ten times by Wade Mitchell Reilly, a man she dated briefly in September 2010 after meeting him on Match.com. They only knew each other eight days before she ended their relationship but Reilly didn’t take it lightly. Four months later, he broke into her home and stabbed and beat her. Mary was hospitalized for months and accrued a bill of $400,000 due to needing extensive plastic surgery. She is now suing Match.com for $10 million dollars, claiming the site doesn’t do enough to screen violent users.
Of course Beckman’s case was extreme, and your online dating experience is unlikely to turn out this way. I have many friends who met their partners via online dating sites like Match.com, EHarmony, and even free membership sites, like OK Cupid and Plenty of Fish. You just have to be smart about what you say and note red flags. Here are some online dating safety tips from Scambook, the leading online complaint resolution platform: