This week, the Attorney General of the State of California announced the Joint Statement of Key Principles for Online Dating Safety.
Online dating sites eHarmony, Match.com and Spark Networks have agreed to help their members date more safely.
As part of this agreement, sites will educate members on online dating safety tips, initiate a rapid abuse reporting system, and will screen against the sex offender list.
While this is huge news for the online dating industry, will it make you feel safer while looking for love online?
As a cyber-relations and online dating expert, I spend a large portion of my time educating singles on how to feel more comfortable and to practice online dating safety tips.
I encourage singles to trust their intuition as it can be powerful. However, I do have a few digital tricks up my sleeve that I'd like to share with you. After all, you're better safe than sorry.
I encourage you to use Google and Facebook, both sites that you're probably accessing daily as your dating buddy or support system. Here are five online dating tips to use, short of paying for a background check.
1. Sign up for a Google Voice phone number.
It's simple to do by visiting Google.com/voice. You can have your calls sent to your mobile phone or home phone and even activate call-screening to find out whose on the other end of the line. Text messages of your caller's transcript can be sent to your mobile phone. It's free. What are you waiting for?
2. Do a Google Search for the phone number of your date.
If your intuition says that something might be wrong with your potential date, type in his or her phone number into a Google search. This will confirm who they are and at times may reveal that there's been a problem associated with that phone number if it's been reported for suspicious activity in the past.
3. Set up a gmail account in Google to use for dating purposes only.
This will not identify who you are until you're ready to meet your date. You do need to protect your identity early on while corresponding with someone you haven't met yet.
4. Do a Google search for the email address of the person you're corresponding with.
While you want to go into your new relationship with trust in mind, if you feel uneasy for any reason, just type in his or her email address. This tip helped a woman who was corresponding with a man cancel her date when she found out that he had registered with that email address for a tantra sex and adult swingers site in a personal ad.
5. Search for your date's name on Facebook and see if the photos match up.
Sure we hope there's truth-in-advertising, but if the online dating photos appear to be 10 years younger and 15 pounds lighter, you know their fibbing on their profile. Check to see if you have any friends in common, which will make you feel better about meeting your date. However, don't send a Friends request before or after a first date. It's just too soon to be digitally checking up on each others' status updates.
At the end of the digital day, if someone is harassing you who you've met online or asks for money, report their profile right away to the dating site as suspicious. Dating sites take safety very seriously.
Julie Spira is an online dating and cyber-relations expert. She's the author of the bestseller, The Perils of Cyber-Dating: Confessions of a Hopeful Romantic Looking for Love Online. Follow @JulieSpira on Twitter.