Dangerous Liaisons & Online Dating

Five things you can do to stay safe while online dating.

I am often asked whether I conduct background checks on my male clients. I own a boutique matchmaking service that caters to professional men seeking long- term relationships and marriage. I get to know my clients as best I can, often visiting their homes and getting detailed feedback from their matches. But even a criminal background check cannot guarantee how a person will behave, or whether they will snap.

A Las Vegas woman, Mary Kay Beckman, is suing Match.com for $10 million, citing negligence, negligent misrepresentation, deceptive trade, failure to warn and negligent infliction of emotional distress, after dating a man she met on the site who stabbed her 10 times in the face and chest and kicked her in the head in an attempt to kill her. Beckman says she went on a few dates in October 2011 with Wade Ridley, but after ending the relationship came home one day to find him in her garage with a knife. While Beckman was in the hospital, Ridley was arrested for the murder of an Arizona woman, also a woman that he had previously dated. When arrested, he told officers he was angry about Beckman breaking up with him and "wanted to kill her."

But should Match.com be held responsible? Many wonderful matches have been made through online dating. I have a family member who met her finance, an amazing man, through Match.com. Whether you meet someone at a bar, in line at the grocery store, at the dog park, or a salsa class, you can still be in danger. Even when you have a long history with someone, things can turn deadly. It seems like every week the news runs a story about a man or a woman killing their spouse.

So how can women protect themselves? The most important thing is to stop contact with a man if you see any red flags. Listen to your gut. Mary Kay Beckman did the right thing in this case, she felt that something wasn't quite right and broke it off with him after eight days. Unfortunately, Ridley was deranged and there was no stopping him from his sick plan.

Here are 5 things that you can do to stay safe when using online dating:

1. Be careful about the image you project in your profile.

Many women post provocative photos and usernames in an attempt to be noticed, but this tactic can attract the wrong type of attention. Keep it classy.

2. Make your first few dates safe.

 Meet your match in a public place such as a restaurant or cafe and take your own transportaion. Avoid secluded places such as parks, (unless you are meeting with your dogs at a busy dog park), or isolating activities like hikes. Never meet at your place or theirs. If you don't feel comfortable or if it’s clear that the person wasn’t truthful in any way at all, leave at immediately and report any dishonesty to the dating service.

3. You have the right to discontiue communication at any time.

Women often have the need to please and don't want to hurt anyone's feelings. Throw that way of thinking right out the window. Your safety comes first. You don’t have to explain or apologize for not wanting to continue correspondence with a man. Most dating sites have a feature that allows you to block the person from contacting you if you want communication to stop.

4. Don’t rush into a relationship.

Even when you feel you have met your "perfect" match, keep your defenses in place. Take your time getting to know someone and always make careful choices regarding any information you reveal or how intimate you become with this person. Trust is earned, so let him prove it to you. Meeting his friends and family will give you great insight as to what type of person he is and depth of character as well.

5. If a date asks you for a loan or any financial information, report it and then run.

Con artists have their story polished and practiced. No matter how compelling the “hard luck” story, it is almost always a scam. I have a friend who was scammed by a man she met online. He lived in another country and told her that he was injured in an accident at work and was in the hospital. He even put the "doctor" on the phone with her. He told her that he needed to borrow 3,000 to pay the hospital bill, but as soon as he was back on his feet, he would fly to her and they would live happily ever after. She foolishly sent him the money, but of course, never heard from him again.

We want to trust, we want to believe in the good of humanity, we want to give love and be loved. Sadly, humans are flawed and some are truly evil. Your life is not worth going against your gut feeling, your intuition.

You can still have a ball getting out there in the dating world. Mixing, mingling, wining and dining on the path to true love. There are some wonderful men out there for you to meet. Just make like and owl and be wise!