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Online dating is hard. We’re here to help.

Visit this spot for tips, tricks, news, and other tidbits useful to those trying to navigate the murky waters of online dating. More people than ever are meeting their mates online, using everything from online personals and forums to giant dating sites to small, niche online communities. Whatever your interests, whatever you like in a partner, whatever floats your boat, it’s out there.

Don’t Be a Victim: Tips for Avoiding Scams on Online Dating Sites

The guy casually asking you to float him a loan on a dating site may not be what he seems.

The guy casually asking you to float him a loan on a dating site may not be what he seems.

This week, Naked Security published an article about scammers who target dating site users. According to the story, just last year, scammers stole $86 million from Americans on online dating websites. Most of those who were defrauded of money were over 40 years old and female.

How did the scammers pull it off? They were attentive and communicative, sending sometimes dozens of emails and text messages a day to their targets. They posed as successful businessmen who either had inside tracks to “great investments” or who needed a little loan to get back to awesome wealth. The women, enjoying the attention and totally trusting their “lovers,” sent money. The did it even though they hadn’t met these guys in person.

After the scammers took the money and ran, the victims generally felt stupid and embarrassed. They realized after the fact how wrong it was to trust someone on the internet so completely, to send money without even meeting someone first, etc. But in the moment, when a potential romantic prospect is paying lots of attention, it’s easy to get swept away.

Naked Security offers these five tips from AARP to help you avoid being scammed yourself when using online dating sites:

1. Use Google’s Reverse Image Search to check out the potential lover’s photos. Most scammers will simply steal pics off the internet to put in their profiles, so if the photo they use turns up elsewhere, that could be a major red flag.

2. Google them. Put their name into Facebook, LinkedIn, anywhere else you can think of. See what comes up. If the person claims to be an investment banker at a particular business but doesn’t show up as a member of that business’s staff, he may be scamming you.

3. Make sure your location is kept private if you’re using a dating app or other mobile service. You don’t want someone to be able to track your whereabouts. Go into your phone’s settings to turn off location services for the apps you use.

4. Keep an eye out for fishy emails. If your potential lover sends you a message that sounds at all scammy/suspicious/just plain weird, copy and paste the text into google. The email may come up on other sites warning people of romance scams. These scammers don’t usually craft unique emails every time they try to swipe some dough from unsuspecting victims; that would take too long.

5. Maintain your privacy at all costs. Don’t give away your personal info too soon. Your home address, your workplace, your birthday, even your last name should be kept to yourself until you’re sure you can trust this person. If they refuse to meet in public (or make plans and then always cancel), or if they pressure you for your personal info, run away.

“I’ve never tried this, so here goes…” – 6 Dating Profile Cliches and What They Really Mean

If you’ve read more than one dating profile in your life, you know they can be riddled with the same phrases, platitudes and cliches. Over time, they might even begin to run together, to the point where you don’t even see them anymore. This isn’t helpful for making a profile “pop” to the reader, but as it turns out, there’s an actual message behind most of the cliches you see on dating sites. This article from BBC News explores what lies beneath the phrases that you probably ignore. Perhaps next time you read a profile, you’ll be surprised at what you actually learn.

1. “I’m new to this, so here goes…” This phrase may seem innocent at first, but it’s actually illustrating how uncomfortable the writer is with the online dating process. The writer may even think there’s a stigma to using an online dating site, so by saying “I’m new,” he or she is distancing themselves from what they think is a bad thing. They may not actually be new to this, but they are probably not psyched about it.

"I enjoy sunshine, long walks on the beach, and washing my hair in the nearest creek."

“I enjoy sunshine, long walks on the beach, and washing my hair in the nearest creek.”

2. “Seeking my partner in crime.” Despite a somewhat dark phrasing, this is a lighthearted comment. This person is trying to come across as fun to be around, interesting and not at all needy.

3. “My friends say I’m…” If you see this phrase followed by a list of adjectives, it could suggest that the writer is insecure or doesn’t think that highly of himself or herself. Why would it matter what friends say, especially when you won’t actually know if these “friends” are correct until you know the person yourself? Also, lists of adjectives are pretty weak; instead of saying “my friends say I’m funny,” just write something you’d think is funny. It’s way more effective.

4. “Don’t contact me if you can’t tell the difference between ‘your’ and ‘you’re.'” Yes, grammar is important to some people. But damn, this comes off as obnoxious. First, dating profiles aren’t a place to throw a fit about a nitpicky thing that bugs you. And second, while the writer may think he or she is weeding out the uneducated masses with a grammar quiz, they may have forgotten that anyone with an education higher than middle school has the potential to know the difference between “your” and “you’re.” Knowing how to use those words properly isn’t necessarily a sign of higher education. Rather, it’s a sign that the person paid attention in 7th grade English.

5. “I’m easygoing.” There’s not a lot of deeper meaning behind this, but it’s so useless as a phrase that you can pretty much ignore it when you see it. Think about it: Does anyone really think of themselves as uptight, annoying or high-strung? Probably not. Even high-maintenance people think they’re low-maintenance.

6. “I have a great, successful life, but I just need someone to share it.” Experts suggest that this person isn’t really trying to brag; rather, they’re trying to make it clear that they’re not needy or lonely. They want to explain that they don’t have any major failings as a human being just because they’re using an online dating site. Deep down, they may be one of those people that still stigmatizes online dating and isn’t completely comfortable.

From Winks to Drinks: Four Tips for the First Date

You’ve met someone online that you seem to really click with. You’ve exchanged messages, shared personal details, and expressed an interest in meeting IRL (in real life). Sometimes, this is the biggest hurdle to online dating: taking the relationship from cyberspace to personal space. Here are a few tips to help you make that leap as smoothly as possible.

1. Don’t wait too long to set up an in-person date. Some people email, text and chat for days, even weeks, before they try to venture into a real-life setting, and by then, the pressure is really on. Instead, if you’ve exchanged a few messages and you seem to be a good fit, set up the date now. Waiting doesn’t help anything except to make the other person think maybe you’re not all that interested after all.

2. Pick the right venue. You need to meet somewhere in public for the first time, so you can both be comfortable. Don’t pick someplace trashy or low-brow, like a parking lot or a fast food joint. By the same token, don’t go over the top with a fancy schmancy dinner. Instead, try a trendy bar for drinks, or a fun bistro for lunch. Places like this keep it a bit casual without being TOO casual, and they allow for talking in relative privacy so you can get to know each other better.

A cozy bar is a nice spot for a first date... just watch those drinks.

A cozy bar is a nice spot for a first date… just watch those drinks.

3. Safety first. Women hear this a lot, but it matters to men, too. When meeting someone from the internet for a date, you have to consider your personal safety above all. Meet in person, have a charged cell phone on you, know where the exits are, and NEVER leave your drink alone. Both men and women have been the victims of date-rape drugs and other awful situations, so even if you think you know this person really well already and you can totally trust them, err on the side of caution. It’s worth it.

4. End on a good note. If you like the other person and want to see them again, suggest another meetup before the first one is even over. Something like, “Hey, if you’re free this weekend, I know a great club a few blocks from here.” Then follow up within a day to confirm the plans. If you DON’T like the other person, be straightforward about it. You can say something like, “I’m really glad I had the chance to meet you in person. I’m sorry that I just don’t feel the chemistry that I hoped I would, but I hope you do find the right person!” They might get upset, but at least you didn’t leave them hanging.

If you’re just not sure whether you want to see them again, suggest that you touch base via text or email again soon. You can say something like, “This was fun, I’m glad we could get together. Let’s text later and see how we both feel about doing this again sometime.” Then definitely text the other person within a day or two so they know you weren’t just blowing them off.

Three Tips for a Good Online Dating First Impression: Username, Tag Line and Writeup

Crafting the perfect online dating profile? We can help.

Crafting the perfect online dating profile? We can help.

We’ve covered how important the right dating profile photo is, as well as some great tips for reaching out to other users on dating sites. But when it comes to a first impression, there are even more details that matter, and they start with the smallest of things: your username, tag line and writeup.

According to this article on Oprah.com, there are a few quick tips that will help you maximize your potential for a good first impression. Here they are for you:

1. Your username: Whatever you choose, it’s one of the first things your potential date will see, right before or right after your profile photo. Be very aware of how your username speaks for you. If you’re a woman seeking a serious relationship, a username like “Dcupgal” won’t do you any favors. Similarly, a man looking to impress a wide variety of women may want to steer clear of childish usernames like “420gamerguyy.”

Don’t try to be too clever with your username; if there’s a joke in there somewhere, be sure it’s clear enough for more than just a tiny percentage of the population to get. And finally, don’t try to force a username for yourself if the one you really want is already taken by someone else. “MissMary5693462″ is messy-looking and impossible to remember.

2. Your tag line: Many dating sites give you a single line of text to put as your profile’s lead-in, like a headline or status update. This is a chance to catch someone’s eye with your wit, interests or style, right up front. First, remember these can be changed regularly. If you’re looking for something specific in a given week, you can change your tag line to reflect that (something like “Seeking someone to hang at the Shady Mongoose club this week and catch a bluegrass show!”).

Second, try to avoid TOO much cleverness or obscurity in your tagline. Inside jokes are fun when everyone is in on the joke, but those who don’t get it won’t be amused or impressed. You won’t sound smart or educated; you’ll sound pretentious or confusing.

3. Your description/writeup: We’ve talked before about what should go into your writeup, but the style of it matters, too. Break up that wall of text into a few paragraphs, and organize them somewhat. The first paragraph is who you are and what you do; the second is for your interests, pet peeves, etc; and the third is what you’re currently up to, from recent books and movies to things you’d LIKE to do, ideally with a date.

One last thing: Spell check. For the love of Pete, spell check is your friend. Let it help you. Trust us, you’ll be glad you did.

Race and Online Dating: Four Things About Racial Preferences Online

Whether we want to admit it or not, online dating isn’t entirely colorblind. The good news is, we’ve made great strides in recent decades as far as racial diversity and inter-racial relationships. The maybe-not-as-good news is, there are some clear preferences that both men and women online daters have where race is concerned. This NPR article explores the details of a study done on 2.4 million heterosexual interactions via the Facebook “Are You Interested” app; four of the key findings are as follows:

1. All men appear to be interested in women of different races than their own.

2. All women (except black women) seem to prefer white men.

3. Both black men and black women got the lowest rates of response to their messages out of all the races.

4. Nearly all men gravitate toward Asian women. The exception? Asian men.

Asian women are preferred by just about all men... Except Asian men.

Asian women are preferred by just about all men on online dating sites… Except Asian men.

Data from OKCupid supports many of these results. For example, OKCupid found that white men receive more replies to their messages from just about every group of women. White women prefer white men, but more interestingly, Asian and Hispanic women appear to prefer white men “even more exclusively.”

As uncomfortable as it may be, the data don’t lie. White men and Asian women clearly have an advantage in online dating when it comes to people of all races finding them attractive. But lest you despair of finding a mate, consider that many experts suspect that some of this data may be skewed. In the real world, the pairing of Asian women and white men isn’t as common as dating sites suggest, which could mean a variety of things. One theory is that there’s some Asian fetishism at play, a sort of “yellow fever” that makes Asian women attractive on screen but more ordinary in real life. Offline may be much different from online when it comes to real matchups.

Whatever the motivations, everyone has their own preferences for what they like. Be true to you!

Sussing Out the Truth: Top Ten Lies that Online Daters Tell

"Yep, these are totally my real breasts. Wouldn't lie to you about that, ha ha!"

“Yep, these are totally my real breasts. Wouldn’t lie to you about that, ha ha!”

On the TV show “House MD,” the show’s main character had a saying: Everybody lies. Most of us know this to be at least a little bit true, and if you’ve spent any time in the world of online dating, you know that it’s more common than some might think. Many, many online dating profiles (more than half of them, as it turns out) contain fudged facts, little white lies and outright whoppers in order to make themselves more desirable and, presumably, datable. After all, it’s easy to make up a few things (or leave out a few things) about ourselves when we’re on the hunt for a mate via the web. The internet is an anonymous platform, revealing only what we wish, until real life and in-person meetups bring the whole thing crashing down, of course.

So what are the most common lies told by those on internet dating sites? Huff Post Style did a piece a few years ago about this very topic, and the findings of the referenced study were interesting. As expected, men and women lied about very similar things, although not all exactly the same and not all in the same order. Older people lied less than younger people, and women lied more than men, by about 10 percentage points (and mostly about how they look). Americans lied more than the British people in the study, but in the end, most of the online daters fibbed.

Without further ado, the lists of the most popular lies told…

Top 10 Things Women Lie About on Dating Profiles

10. Saying that they “work in entertainment”

9. Claiming to have an assistant or direct reports under them

8. Claiming to know famous people

7. Claiming to have a fancy, exciting or glamorous job

6. Claiming to have a larger bust than they do

5. Saying they have more money than they actually have

4. Pretending to be taller than they are

3. Claiming to have a “toned” physique

2. Pretending to be a few years younger than they are

1. Saying they weigh less than they do

 

Top 10 Things Men Lie About on Dating Profiles

10. Claiming to work in the “film industry”

9. Claiming to have employees or an assistant

8. Claiming to know famous people

7. Pretending to have an interesting job

6. Saying that they’re higher up at work than they are

5. Claiming to have more money than they do

4. Pretending to have an “athletic” physique

3. Saying they weigh less than they do

2. Claiming to be taller than they are

1. Saying that their job is better than it actually is

 

Dating Sites By the Numbers

fingersThere are more dating sites on the web right now than anyone can count, with new ones springing up or shutting down every day. The site(s) you choose to join may depend on many factors, from overall membership numbers to cost to whether the site supports same sex matchups. Thanks to Wikipedia, we can give you a quick rundown of some of the more popular US online dating sites, in case you’re having trouble deciding on one. NOTE: This is by no means an exhaustive list, and if you’d like more info on these sites or any others, follow the wiki link above.

Match.com

Membership: 96 million registered as of 2009, with 1.7 million active

Free? nope, this one will cost you, both for joining and for messaging other members.

Same sex couples ok? Yes!

eHarmony.com

Membership:

Free? No, you have to pay to join and also to message other members.

Same sex couples ok? No, this is a hetero-only site.

OKCupid.com

Membership: 5.6 million active as of 2010

Free? Yep, this site is free to join and to message others.

Same sex couples ok? Yes!

Plenty of Fish

Membership: 40 million registered as of 2012

Free? You betcha. Free to join, free to message others.

Same sex couples ok? Yes!

Zoosk

Membership: 50 million as of 2011

Free? No, this one costs you to sign up and also send messages.

Same sex couples ok? Yes!

SpeedDate.com

Membership: 9 million registered as of 2010

Free? Parts of it are, but the full site access will cost you.

Same sex couples ok? Yes!

Gay Romeo/Planet Romeo

Membership: 6.7 million registered, over a million active

Free? Communication and profile/page views are free

Same sex couples ok? That’s a stupid question. Yes.

Chemistry.com

Membership: 11 million as of 2010

Free? Parts of it are free, but communicating with other members is not

Same sex couples ok? Yes!

Badoo

Membership: 197 million as of 2013

Free? There’s a free option, but premium services do cost money

Same sex couples ok? Yes!

Ashley Madison

Membership: 17.8 million as of 2013

Free? Partial access for free, but most of it costs

Same sex couples ok? Yes!

Five Tips for Writing that First Message to Someone on a Dating Site

When you find a profile on a dating site that makes you go, “Hmm, this one sounds promising,” it can be more stressful than expected. After all, you have one chance, your first message to this new person, to make a good impression. You want to write something that makes THEM go, “Hmmm, this one sounds promising.” You want that first message to draw them in, not send them screaming for the hills. So what constitutes a good first message to someone on a dating site?

OKCupid did the math. They looked at 500,000 first messages and checked out keywords, response rates and other valuable statistics. In the end, they came up with some rules that can help your first contact be the first of many more. There’s no guarantee that these rules will work every time, but they just might give you a leg up on the competition, at the least.

No matter how pretty she is, save it for after you've gotten to know her a bit.

No matter how pretty she is, save it for after you’ve gotten to know her a bit.

1. No physical compliments. You may think this is counter intuitive; what girl wouldn’t want to be told she’s beautiful? But the key here is that you’re trying to meet someone for the first time, and focusing on looks as a pick-up line can be a major turn-off. If the girl is pretty, she probably knows it, or at least made sure to put her most flattering picture on her profile. So messages that point out her attractiveness will probably come across as more creepy than complimentary. You can always tell her how attractive she is after you’ve gotten to know her a bit more. On the flipside, general, non-physical compliments scored way better in OKCupid’s analysis: go for words like “fascinating,” “cool,” or “awesome” (just don’t use them in the wrong context, like “you have an awesome rack”).

2. Atypical greetings score better than the bland ones. You may think that a standard “hi” is a good way to open a message, but it turns out that the usual “hi,” “hello” or “hey” scored pretty low. The opening lines that performed the best included “how’s it going,” “what’s up,” “howdy” and even “hola.” We’re not really sure why this is, but it’s best not to argue with science.

3. Don’t suck at spelling/grammar. Literacy, as it turns out, is important for a first impression, not only for job interviews but also for dates. Proper use of punctuation (especially apostrophes) can raise even ordinary words to high approvals, but failing at grammar drops otherwise-decent words into netspeak hell. The “words” (and I use that term loosely) that scored worst in OKCupid’s ratings included “ur,” “r,” “ya,” “u,” “cant,” “luv,” “realy” and “wat.” There were a few exceptions to the rule, such as expressions of laughter (“haha” and “lol” did okay in the stats), but by and large, dusting off those old English class skills helped users get far more responses than crappy or lazy writing.

4. Be an atheist. Or at least claim to be. Before anyone gets their panties in a wad about this, it’s not a personal preference thing by us or by OKCupid. We don’t care if you’re religious or not. The reality is, the stats don’t lie, and people who mentioned being atheist in their opening contacts scored higher than any other religious mention. A distant second was Christian, then Jewish, then Muslim. After that came mentions of Allah and Jesus (both barely a positive), while mention of “god” in general was a negative.

Tattoo, yes. Saying "u" instead of "you," NO.

Tattoo, yes. Saying “u” instead of “you,” NO.

5. Use specifics to stand out. Talking in vague, general terms about yourself is not going to win any points with a potential date. You want to be specific about your interests, and you also want to be specific about how you’ve noticed THEIR interests. For yourself, the following terms scored the highest in OKCupid’s findings: “band,” “metal,” “vegetarian,” “zombie,” “favorite movies,” “tattoo(s),” “physics,” “video games” and “grad school.” When talking about what the other person likes, the terms that got the best response (and showed that you were paying attention to their profile) were “you mention,” “good taste,” “noticed that,” “your name” and “curious what.” Be clear about what you like and also how interested you are in what they like, and you’ll have a much higher chance of response.

Seven Niche Dating Sites for VERY Specific People

Yes, you can find dating sites for workout buffs, but these sites are even more niche than that.

Yes, you can find dating sites for workout buffs, but these sites are even more niche than that.

It’s almost impossible to count all the dating sites out there. Many of them are general and boast millions of members, but others are extremely specific: They cater to a narrow member base, those who have something in common that really matters to them. What these sites lack in population size, they make up for in passion, at least where their niche is concerned. So is there a niche dating site that’s right for you? Here are some specific (and often surprising) niche dating sites that actually exist. (site info courtesy of a great article at The Frisky)

1. 420Singles: This is a dating site designed just for those who like to indulge in cannabis. Whether you live in a state that has legalized marijuana or not, whether you smoke a bowl daily or just try a bit in a while (or even if you don’t smoke but support those who do), this site is for those like you. 420singles claims to have 53,000 members with more added daily.

2. Trek Passions: If Sci Fi is your thing, Trek Passions is for you. You don’t have to be a fan of Star Trek; the site also caters to fans of Star Wars and other sci fi TV shows and movies, as well as those who prefer their science fiction in literary form (Douglas Adams anyone?). Trek Passions is good for finding both friends and dates who share your love of the final frontier. Smoke us a kipper, we’ll be back for breakfast.

3. Gluten-Free Singles: Celiac is nothing to mess with. If you’d like to meet singles who eschew gluten, whether because of celiac, gluten intolerance or just dietary choice, look no further. You’d be surprised how delightful it can be to dine out with someone who orders from the same menu. Gluten-Free Singles was a finalist for the 2014 “Up and Coming Dating Site” award.

4. Punk Match: You aren’t mainstream, so why date that way? Punk Match pairs you with potential partners who are as punk as you are. If you grow weary of the options on ordinary dating sites and want someone who shares your individual spirit and anti-establishment tendencies, this could be the site for you.

5. Equestrian Singles: Many children love horses. So do many adults, as it turns out. Equestrian Singles lets you meet potential mates who share your love and passion for all things horse. Whether you ride English or Western, whether you prefer the thrill of the steeplechase or the peace of a trail ride, visit this site for other horse lovers.

6. Positive Singles: In this day and age, having an STD doesn’t have to carry the stigma it once did. If you’re one of the millions of people living with a sexually-transmitted disease, Positive Singles is a reminder that you’re not alone. Whether you have HIV, HPV or HSV, this site lets you meet others with similar diagnoses so that you can date without worry. No need to fret about when to “drop the bomb” on your latest love interest or whether they’ll lose interest in you afterward. This dating site takes the stress out of being positive.

7. Alikewise: Just saying “I like books” isn’t enough. There are so many genres, authors, styles and themes in the literary world that a shared love of literature is no guarantee of a match. That’s where Alikewise comes in, pairing book lovers with others who share their specific reading interests. Whether you prefer Asimov or Austen, you can share your passion here.

Eight Steps to Make Your Dating Profile “Ideal”

There are millions of dating profiles on the web, spread across countless dating sites. Many of them seem as diverse as they could be. But in reality, there’s a pattern to the madness. Certain hobbies, certain interests, certain aspects of personality and appearance… There are trends in how both men and women view these things and which ones rise to the top. Wired did the research and crunched the data on profiles from OKCupid and Match, and based on their findings, here are some tips to help you fashion a dating profile most likely to appeal to others.

Outside hobbies make you more attractive.

Outside hobbies make you more attractive.

1. Outdoor hobbies matter (some more than others). Wired found that upper middle class sports drew interest, while sports like basketball and kickball didn’t fare so well. Among men, the top three outdoor activities were surfing, yoga and skiing (in that order), while for women, the top three were yoga, surfing and running (also in that order). So the bottom line is, learn to surf.

2. Get to know the right shows and movies. For attractiveness, men scored highest when they mentioned watching “Homeland” and “Arrested Development,” while women scored best for “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” and “Pulp Fiction.” Women plummeted in the ratings for talking about liking “Twilight” or “Star Trek,” and men dropped like rocks for “Doctor Who” and “NCIS.”

3. Money talks, but age walks (at least for women). When it comes to work-related words that pop up in profiles, the most attractive word for women to read in a man’s profile is “retirement.” But if a woman puts that same word in her own profile, it drops to the second-least attractive word. Men don’t like thinking of women aging, we guess.

4. Smile with teeth – no duckface! The photos rated the hottest on dating profiles featured a majority of pics with people smiling open-lipped. On the flipside, only 6% of the hottest pics had duckface kissy lips in them.

5. Does music matter? Apparently so. For both men and women, the best band you could mention on your profile is the same: Radiohead.

Religion is fine, but focusing too much on it may cost you.

Religion is fine, but focusing too much on it may cost you.

6. Watch the mention of religion. Religion can be a deal-breaker for many people, so while you many want to put it all out there (and you should certainly be honest about your beliefs), the word “God” makes your profile less attractive. That said, of all the people willing to date outside their faith, Mormon men are the most likely to do it.

7. Log in at the right time to get the most activity. On many of the main dating sites (Grindr, Tinder, OKCupid, Match), there’s a big spike of activity on Sundays. Also, Grindr users tend to be online in the midafternoon, while Tinder and Match/OKCupid are on into the evening hours. So get online on Sunday if you want the best chance of chatting with someone in real-time.

8. Want sex? Know what most people want. Sex is important in most relationships, but how long do you wait to have it with someone new, and how often once you start? OKCupid did a poll, and they found that most users of all genders and sexual orientations wanted to wait 3-5 dates before getting busy with a new partner. After that, the most popular choice for how often to have sex was 3-4 times per week. Obviously, everyone is different, so don’t assume your new love interest has the same sexual timeline as you: Communicate!