Not all dating sites created equal; use caution in online dating scene

By Robb Hicken/ BBB’s chief storyteller

“I’ve always considered online dating sites as a bit cheesy,” says Laura Larsen, of Nampa, a student at Northwest Nazarene University. “But, when I started looking at them I began to notice distinct differences.”

Those differences were made even more clear when she looked at the business reviews on the companies that put up the websites. Major companies around the nation are making money from love.

“I was looking for reviews on Idaho Singles – their contract actually calls them Today’s Matchmaker of Idaho,” Laura (not her real name) says. “One of the consumer reviews on the BBB site for Idaho Singles identifies that this company is also called eLove.”

The 2012 Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) Internet Crime Report showed that 29 percent of the victims targeted with online dating scams were women 50 and older. There are a number of scams designed to take advantage of people seeking romance online.

eHarmony spokesperson Cameron Danes says Internet dating has to be approached like any relationship.

“If you enter the relationship expecting a fast hookup, you’re probably going to be let down,” he says.

eHarmony encourages careful considerations when giving out personal information. Look at the person’s other social media.

“Is this a real person? Does he or she have friends, family, or other relatives?” he says. “How long have they been a part of the social network? A good indicator is to look for pictures or images of the person, is there more than one identity for this man or woman?”

BBB suggests the following:

  • Research in advance. Check out the dating service online at bbb.org to check their history of complaints and reputation with consumers.
  • Select with integrity. Request in writing what guidelines the company follows in screening its applicants.
  • Read the fine print. Specifically keep an extra eye for free trial offers and deals. Some need you to cancel before the trial offer ends to avoid recurring charges. Be sure the contract lists out payment plans, length of contract and refund and cancellation policies. For payment, use your credit card for extra protection.
  • Put safety first. Inquire about the company’s policy on disclosure of personal information. Avoid putting too much personal information on your profile, such as home address, work information and telephone number.
  • Inquire about cost. Make certain you understand the company’s pricing policies before agreeing to the terms of service. Find out if refunds are offered and what conditions determine the refund amount.
  • Beware of those who prey on your emotions by claiming to be trapped in a foreign country or involved in an emergency, and needing money. This is the “catfishing” scam.
  • Read the signs. Be wary of profiles that lack photographs and information in the “About Me” section.
  • Create a separate email. Only use dating site account. Not only is it an easy way to keep dating emails separate from personal and professional e-mails, it also keeps your primary email address private.
  • Speak on the phone/meet in person. It is easier to spot a fraud over the phone than online.
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