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Posted on February 17, 2016 by in Personal, Scam Alerts

Every February, dating sites see an increase in activity, since people are inspired by Valentine’s Day and New Year’s resolutions to aim for romance.

That’s good news if you’re ready to find love, as you’ll likely have more dating options. But some of those choices can lead to more than an awkward first date. Without taking precautions, you could fall victim to one of the many online dating scams.

For example, Sh’reen Morrison had been on an online dating site for only a few weeks before she became suspicious of the man who was wooing her. He claimed to be traveling through India with a sick daughter and suddenly needed Morrison to “loan” him $18,000 for an emergency. That’s when she knew she was dealing with a scammer. She told CBS News, “The story was getting more and more bizarre. But I hung on and kept communicating because I wanted to see the end of the movie.”

Unfortunately, these types of stories are becoming increasingly common. It’s possible, though, to make the most of online dating apps without setting yourself up for an online dating scam. If you’re thinking of taking the plunge, here are 4 tips for setting up your profile:

  1. Limit what you share: Most, if not all, online dating apps allow you to use only your first name, or a screen name, when setting up a profile. You can also choose what other type of information to include. Go ahead and share your love for puppies and windsurfing, but advises caution with giving out your full name, phone number, email, or home address. Definitely omit any personal contact information from your profile or username.
  1. Use a specific photo only for online dating: Some dating experts advise that you take a separate set of selfies and use them only for online dating profiles. That means not grabbing your photo from your Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn account. This technique allows you to stay more anonymous, because photos used in multiple places may allow a user to run a Google Image search and find identifying information elsewhere online.
  1. Increase privacy across all your social media: Even though you’re not putting a wealth of identifying information in your profile, it’s a good idea to increase your security across every platform. That way, when you do start to share details with someone, you can limit what he or she sees on Facebook or Twitter.
  1. Take advantage of tech tools: Many legitimate dating sites have put identity protection layers into place. For example, some allow you to cloak information like your email address until you feel ready to share it. Once your profile is set up, use these features to explore potential dates without giving away too much information.

Also important is knowing the warning signs of potential scams once you start meeting people online. There’s no reason to avoid making the most of online connections and romance — just make sure you’re also avoiding any online dating scams along the way.