Looking for love online?
It’s about to get a little safer.
Three of the largest online dating sites — Match.com, eHarmony.com and Spark Networks, which owns niche sites such as ChristianMingle.com, LDSMingle.com and BlackSingles.com — announced last week they would begin screening for sexual offenders and take other measures to protect users.
"Consumers should be able to use websites without the fear of being scammed or targeted," states California Attorney General, Kamala Harris.
A move such as this could help potential users feel more comfortable using dating sites that, historically, have attempted to overcome the stigma of meeting people from the Internet.
The sites also agreed to check user lists against national sex registries.
While this information seems like a great response, it is important to note that the websites are not legally required to follow the guidelines. So while it sounds like a great plan to add another level of security to online dating sites, users shouldn’t put their guard down completely.
Part of what led to these announcements was a 2010 case in which a Los Angeles area woman was sexually assaulted by a man whom she met on Match.com.
Of course, there still is no complete safety guard for dating — whether it is online or traditional ways of finding a mate.
Well before the Internet, potential love connections were made at bars and other social gatherings. Even in those settings, there always was cause for concern. Let’s face it, whether it’s online, a blind date or a random introduction, you never know what might happen. You could meet Mr./Ms. Right, Mr./Ms. Right Now or be part of a bad experience.
While paid sites joined this effort, one very well known site was missing — Craigslist.
There are at least four known cases of individuals allegedly murdering their victims after meeting on Craigslist, including one involving medical student Philip Markoff, who was charged with murdering Julissa Brisman in a Boston hotel in 2009. Throughout the trial, Markoff maintained his innocence. He committed suicide Aug. 15, 2010.
That story later was turned into Lifetime movie, “The Craigslist Killer.”
Markoff also was accused in two robbery cases. All three incidents happened within six days, prompting law enforcement officials to suspect that the same individual committed all three. In the two robberies, the women were not killed.
Those cases obviously are the extreme. Some 40 million people use online dating sites each year. It is unclear how many of them involve criminal activities, but I’m willing to bet the numbers are low.
If for nothing else, last week’s news that some dating sites would bolster its security means that online dating sites continue to grow in popularity. Like anything else, there is bound to be a negative side effect.
So if you’re one of the 40 million who log into a dating site, keep your guard up.
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Like this article? Check out other great columns on twoday magazine:
New Websites Offer Background Checks for Online Dating By Natalie Bencivenga
Woman Demands Match.com Be Shut Down After Being Sexually Assaulted By a Man She Met Through the Site By Natalie Bencivenega
Keeping Secrets From Your Partner By Bobby Cherry