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The Internet offers us almost limitless opportunities, but with opportunities come risks, and online dating is no exception. It is about investing your time and your feelings into someone who will – until the moment you meet in person – remain a stranger, whose words and even identity cannot be taken for granted. Forgetting this simple fact can result in hurt feelings, wasted time and (worst-case scenario) hundreds or even thousands of dollars you will never get back. These words are not meant to dissuade you from using dating sites, any more than traffic rules are meant to dissuade you from driving a car; just as the latter is among the easiest and most convenient ways of getting around, the former is among the easiest and most convenient ways of finding a romantic partner, its benefits far outweighing the risks. But also, just as there are simple rules for driving a vehicle, there are simple rules for using a dating site or app. Follow these, and your figurative ride will be a smooth one, quite possibly, with a beautiful woman awaiting you at the end.
№1: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is
Every scam is based on the fact that people tend to believe what they want to believe, and the more you indulge your fantasies, the easier you are to dupe. What man wouldn't want beautiful women to be attracted to him the moment they saw him? All of us want that, but the reality is that this only works for men that are rich, famous, or extremely good-looking; the rest have to earn that attraction through their words and actions. So, if you are a regular-looking guy whose dating profile says regular things, and a girl that looks like a model starts messaging you, that should already give you some pause. If, after only a few letters, she starts talking about having feelings for you, or even wanting to have sex with you, that is a big red flag, no matter how good that stuff makes you feel. By itself, such talk is harmless, as long as you treat it like a game. The harm begins when you start taking it seriously, because it sets you up for all sorts of manipulation. We are not saying that an attractive woman can never like an average guy — that does happen — only that you shouldn't take everything at face value. So, if a girl like that contacts you, don't write her off right away, but apply the rules that follow, starting with...
№2: Don't ignore warning signs
Some men on dating sites get so excited by all the love and sex talk that they keep overlooking small things, like their questions going unanswered, or the fact that the woman hardly asks any of her own. Don't be one of those men. If you do not get an answer to a question, ask again. If it goes unanswered again, stop. Someone who keeps ignoring your questions either doesn't care about you, or is hiding something. Either way, that person cannot be trusted. Of course, some questions can be tactless or premature, but an honest woman will tell you so instead of simply ignoring them. An honest woman will also ask as many questions as she answers, and, likewise, she will not like it if they are ignored. A woman that asks few or no questions is simply not interested in you, even if she makes it sound like she is. And it goes without saying that you should not have anything to do with a woman you have caught in a lie (lying by omission also counts).
№3: Go beyond messaging
If the dating site you are using lets you have a video chat with a woman, or have her record a personalized video for you, do it. Seeing someone live is much better than reading letters, and, at the very least, you will know that the woman in the pictures is the one you are really writing to. That is, of course, a must if you intend to travel to another city or country to meet her. If she starts coming up with excuses for not meeting in person, let alone talking to you on skype, that raises a lot of questions, and you will probably not like the answers.
№4: Don't. Send. Money.
Everyone knows about this one, but then, everyone knows you shouldn't drive while drunk, yet DUI cases still number in the thousands, so bear with us. You can imagine (or maybe even know from experience) how it happens. You have been talking to her for a while, you have seen each other on webcam many times, she is sweet, funny and has a great smile, and you feel like you have known her for ages. She has even agreed to meet you! All that stands in the way of that fateful meeting is a mere trifle – a few hundred bucks so she can take a taxi from her town to the airport/get a visa/pay off a debt that would bar her from leaving the country/whatever. Or, perhaps, disaster has struck, and her grandmother has fallen seriously ill, and they have no money for treatment. She may not even ask directly, but how can you ignore her plight after all you have shared? Well, actually, you can and you should. Any request for money, either express or implied, by a woman you have not met in person is a scam. This rule is the hardest to follow because you have already invested so much in the virtual relationship, and breaking it off at this point would be painful, but so would the loss of several hundred dollars and, adding insult to injury, the realization that you've been had. If a few hundred dollars mean nothing to you, then you can take the risk; otherwise, don't, and report her to the dating site's administration.
№5: Trust, but verify
It is better to know than to believe. If you are having doubts about a specific woman, do not hesitate to contact the dating site's support with your concerns. If you have her full name, google it and see if she is on any scammer lists, or if what you find on her social networks doesn't match her dating profile. Some dating services can also run a comprehensive background check on a woman for an additional fee. The more you know before you commit to anything, the better.
№6: Have fun
If you aren't, then what's the point?