But using the internet can put you at risk of illegal activities or abuse, including bullying, fraud, cyber crime or something more serious. Unlike seeing someone face to face, people aren’t always what they first seem in the digital world. In this post, Find Keep Love looks at how to stay safe online, so that you can utilise the huge potential of the internet to enjoy meeting new friends and date safely.
Protect your privacy on social networking sites. Almost everyone nowadays is connected via one or more social network, such as Facebook, Google+, Sina Weibo [Chinese], LinkedIn, Bebo and so on. Check your social media privacy settings and the information you are allowing into the public domain and to your connections. The abundant personal information available on such sites is a predator’s dream come true. Set up privacy restrictions to give only trusted people access to personal information and activities. Do not give strangers access to your social networking sites, but if you must connect with strangers for some reason (some games encourage you to build a large social network), make sure you restrict their access.
Understand the settings for your GPS and geolocation services on your electronic devices, as well as your social media networks. Consider turning off the GPS on your mobile phones and cameras, unless you want people to know where you are. You may be inadvertently be posting your location when you post photos, status updates, and so on. To keep your location private, avoid sending or posting images from GPS-enabled devices.
Don’t give out private personal information online. Unless you are 100% sure of the person you are giving it to, of course. Use discretion when deciding what information to reveal about yourself, but never, ever disclose private information such as bank details, your passport number, account passwords, and so on.
Keep your login information and passwords private and secure. Your passwords are the most common way to prove your identity when using websites, email accounts and even your computer itself (via User Accounts). Avoid public or shared computers where login information can be saved or cached, and avoid automatic login features and do not save passwords to avoid entering a password. The use of strong (varied and difficult) passwords is essential to protect your security and identity. The best security in the world is useless if a malicious person has a legitimate user name and password. Here are some tips for choosing the best passwords:
Choose a password with a combination of upper and lower case letters, numbers and keyboard symbols such as @ # $ % ^ & * ( ) _ +. For example, SP1D3Rm@n – a variation of Spiderman, with letters and numbers, upper and lower case. But be aware that some of these punctuation marks may be difficult to enter on foreign keyboards.
Choose a password containing at least eight characters. Longer passwords are harder for criminals to guess or break.
Don’t use the following as passwords:
Your username, actual name or business name.
Family members’ or pets’ names.
Your birthday or the birthdays of family members.
Favourite sports team or other words easy to work out with a little background knowledge of your likes and dislikes.
The word ‘password’ (you’d be surprised how many people use this as their deafult password!).
A commonplace dictionary word, which could be cracked by common hacking programs.
A dating site should provide online security – HTTPS
It should delete all your personal data after you close the account.
It should be upfront about how it shares your personal information with other members.
It should be upfront about who else gets to see your data.
It should indicate whether the dating site shares your e-mail address with third parties.
Does it give you a chance to opt out?
Does it provide the name of a real human being to contact if you have questions?
Use an email address without your full name or use a pseudonym or nickname. If you use a work or personal email account, your full name may appear on any email you send. With your full name and location, someone may find your address and even phone number via people search websites like 192.com. To get around this, we suggest you get a free email account (for example, from Yahoo Mail, Google’s Gmail or Microsoft’s Outlook.com) and avoid using your last name. You may even want to use a different first name – try making up a fun nickname like “StaticKitten”. This nickname doesn’t need to be your screen name.
Take your time and don’t rush into things. Do not feel compelled or pressured to do anything you are not completely comfortable with. The online world allows for anonymity, which can work for you and against you. Start with a few emails back and forth or use online chat (some dating websites offer this as part of their package), then a few phone calls, before meeting in person. A highly recommended alternative to the phone is Skype, which offers free video calls over the internet and cheap calls to phones. There are also a number of smartphone apps, like Line, WhatsApp*, ooVoo, Viber and Tango that offer various combinations of free messaging and audio/video calling.
*WhatsApp is now a paid service.
Be aware that webcams and Skype calls may be recorded. Be extremely wary about removing clothes or doing other private things in front of your webcam, which could be used against you, even if you feel comfortable with and think you know the other party. It is really easy these days to record both video and audio using a number of different software packages. Some chat websites, for example, cache live images to show on your profile. Webcam blackmail is becoming more commonplace, where fraudsters record your webcam then use the recording to extort money. Emails, messages, screen captures and so on can be forwarded to others at the click of a button, so be careful what you do and say.
When you do meet your new date (especially the first time), do it with a friend and in a public place. If you can’t arrange a friend to be there physically with you (or nearby), at least tell a friend or family member and check in with them at some stage during the date.
Never leave or go home with them. Be wary if they suggest going somewhere more private (unless the date is going well and heading in that direction). If you begin to feel uncomfortable (in a more serious way, not those normal dating jitters) or unsafe, leave the situation as soon as possible.
Report any attacks or threats to the police immediately.
Are you as safe as you should be online? Have you ever had a bad experience with someone or something online?
A special thanks goes to Alastair at CitizenArc for providing a number of useful tips for this article. CitizenArc is a West London-based computer support service offering technical support and professional training for individuals and businesses, specialising in Apple Mac and iOS.
Valentine’s Day is the perfect excuse to ask someone out on a date or just let someone special to you know that you care. It may have been marketed and commercialised, and some people treat it as just another “Hallmark holiday”, but we at Find Keep Love think there is no better ‘official’ opportunity to share the love than February 14th each year.
If you are lucky enough to have scored a date for Valentine’s Day and this is your first date together, it’s a good idea to go over the first date dos and don’ts listed below. This post might be designed for those in the early days of dating, but there’s some wisdom here for those in longer term relationships: how many of the dos do you do, and how many of the don’ts have crept into your dating behaviour?
DO think carefully about the location of the date and the activities you have planned. It pays to choose a safe date for your first date, and it’s definitely worthwhile finding out a little about your date’s preferences in a general sense before choosing where to go. You don’t want to take a vegetarian to a steakhouse, for example!
DO dress smartly, but DON’T go over the top. There’s nothing more awkward than two people on a date dressed on completely different levels. If the place you’re going to has a dress code, make sure you both know it. If not, smart casual will do the trick. If you’ve come straight from work, you can always fall back on that as an excuse.
DON’T order messy food. If your date involves eating, you’ll want to eat politely, safely and tidily. You’ll want to avoid any foods that have sloppy sauces or might require slurping (spaghetti, noodle bowls, and so on), or spicy/greasy/heavy foods that might leave you feeling bloated or gassy – there’s nothing worse than burping and farting your way through the rest of the date. Appearing healthy is one quality that is extremely attractive to the opposite sex – it gives them an impression you care about yourself (in a way that is not narcissistic) – so fast food is not recommended either. And garlic and onion, no matter how tasty, reduce your chances of leaving a favourable impression and stealing an end-of-date kiss. Last, but not least, some food has a tendency to get stuck in teeth – avoid corn, spinach and anything with a lot of herbs.
DO enjoy an alcoholic drink or two (if you do indeed drink alcohol), but DON’T get really drunk. Alcohol is a great social lubricant and can wash away some of the anxiety and nervousness associated with a first date. But getting really drunk doesn’t lead to good decisions or good outcomes, despite what we might think at the time, and it isn’t sexy. Drink responsibly.
DON’T talk too much about yourself, but DO ask your date lots of open questions (questions like “What did you do last week/weekend?” or “What do you do in your spare time?”, instead of closed questions that end in a yes/no or similarly short answer. Good conversational flow makes for a good date. You should show that you are interested in finding out as much as possible about your date, without feeling like a job interview or coming across as an obsessed stalker!
DO meet in public. It will be more comfortable for both of you and protects you from any potentially awkward or dangerous situations.
DON’T expect anything physical. This mainly relates to physical interaction with your date and is mainly aimed at male readers, but the date will go much smoother going into it without any expectations (other than the expectation of a nice date). Go with the flow and don’t force anything – you’ll know if the moment’s right. Guys, act gentlemanly; similarly, ladies, act ladylike.
Finally, DO make your first date fun and leaving them wanting more, but, and this might sound counterintuitive, DON’T peak too early and make the fun of the first date unsurpassable. The first date sets a benchmark for (hopefully) following dates – if it’s too fun and exciting, you’ll have high expectations to live up to. On the other hand, if the date’s too slow and boring, you won’t get another one. The first date should give ample opportunity to get to know each other better with sufficient distraction (music, for example) to help with any awkward/nervous moments during the date. Action dates provide a fun way to interact with each other and can help you bond quicker than conversation can, but you want to build up to a crescendo (and not play all your cards at once!).
What are your dating dos and don’ts? Do you have a dating experience that went horribly wrong?