by Graciela Becerra
Whether it’s a responding to a newspaper ad, creating an online dating profile or swiping right on the latest dating app, non-traditional dating has it pros and cons. Some people claim to live happily ever after, but others become victims of scams, blackmail or even more horrific crimes.
Beginning with newspaper classified ads, many have hoped to find their ideal love matches by broadcasting their single statuses through popular outlets. Through the years, the growing popularity of the internet, classified ads have evolved into online dating sites. With millions of members belonging to many sites, it seems everyone knows or is one of those users.
“I know a friend who used an online dating site in Africa,” said Nina Gachanja, student. “She met somebody from the United States, and they have a kid now.”
This is the type of scenario members dream of when signing up for a dating site, but they are not entirely common or guaranteed. Online dating has many dangers and perhaps one of the most dangerous aspects is people lying about their identities.
“When you’re doing something like that, you have to be very careful because you don’t know who you’re talking to,” said Dan Robles, crime prevention officer at the college. “Being anonymous is one of the scariest things of online dating.
Naomi Tiffany, student, said she doesn’t think she would ever use a dating site.
“I don’t like chatting to people I don’t know that I don’t see on a regular basis,” said Tiffany. “You just never know who they could be.”
eHarmony, arguably one of the most popular dating sites today, launched in the year 2000 and has since gained over 20 million registered users. Eager to be matched, those users may likely skip through the terms, conditions and miss out on the fact that eHarmony, like many other dating sites, does not conduct criminal background checks, although they reserve the right to.
Unfortunately, if the average person becomes suspicious about a person they’re talking to online, conducting their own reliable background check is out of the question.
Robles said background checks aren’t an easy thing for the average person to have access and that you have to have a legal reason to have a law enforcement conduct them.
“But you can do your own little investigation,” said Robles. “It’s so easy for people to Google and find out about a person.” He points out a site called Family Watchdog on which anyone can search for offenders by name or area.
If students do choose to engage in online dating, there are some basic safety tips that should be followed.
“Don’t be somewhere private. Meet up in a public place,” said Tiffany.
Robles advises students to let someone know what you’re doing and whom you’re talking to.
“Let [another] person know what’s going on. That way if something does happen, there’s a contact,” he said. “Be very trusting and give them your passwords so that police have access to that.”
The Circle of 6 app is also a reliable safety tool to have. According to Robles, a lot of students at the college have it downloaded on their phones. The app allows users to alert their circle if they’re in a dangerous situation and even sends a map of where the user is.
“If you’re going to go solo, have that on your phone,” said Robles. “It gives you some tools to help you out.”