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Looking for Love Online? Simple Ways to Protect Your Identity

According to Time Magazine, online dating sites see a significant traffic boost around Valentine’s Day, when more singles are looking to find love. JDate, for example, claims instant messaging rises 150 percent on the holiday, and Match.com’s peak season is from Dec. 26 to Feb. 14, when the site sees a 38 percent jump in new members.

If you’re turning to an online dating site this Valentine’s Day, know that you’re certainly in good company. However, there are also some scammers that may be lurking online. There are some simple steps you should take to keep from getting a broken heart or worse, a stolen identity.

1. Turn to Reputable Dating Sites

Begin by choosing a reputable dating site. Seek referrals from family and friends and read up on online dating site reviews before deciding which one to try out.

You should also be especially mindful about the site’s member safety policies. Inquire about whether the site screens members or how they handle situations that can compromise the safety of their users.

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2. Research Those You’ve Met Online

You can’t rely entirely on dating sites to share everything you need to know about a potential love interest. Remember that users are creating profiles to showcase their best self, and sometimes that can be deceiving (or in the case of a scammer, fictitious).

Consider researching romantic interests online through search engines and social media accounts. See if the personal information they shared matches what you find online, and that images that may turn up resemble the one in their profile picture.

Be sure their Facebook profile is legitimate and doesn’t have a surprisingly low number of friends or is rife with grammatical errors, which is often another tip-off.

Also consider doing a background check. Many states allow you to search court records online for free, and there are a number of credible background check sites available to help put you at ease.

3. Know How to Spot a Scam

If you encounter requests for money, excuses for not wanting to meet face-to-face, or learn that someone you’ve met is from the U.S. but is currently overseas or traveling, recognize that these could be red flags.

Suspicious links that could contain malware or computer viruses are unfortunately also making an unwelcome appearance in today’s online dating scene. Furthermore, be on the look out not only for false photos, but also fake webcam footage that is being used to fool daters into falling for scammers.

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