The thought of meeting new people, chatting with strangers and fostering relationships on the Internet appeals to many.
After all, you're safe at home, typing away on your computer and you can easily rid yourself of someone you don't want to talk to -- it's easier than walking out on a disastrous date, right?
A Mumbai daily reported today that a woman doctor from the city was conned online into sending nude pictures of herself to a prospective suitor and came close to being raped. How did it happen?
A 45-year-old senior MNC staffer created a fake profile on a matrimonial website, using a male model's photograph. He then lured the lady into correspondence, which resulted in talks of marriage. He even convinced her to send across nude pictures of herself, claiming that he was working in Tokyo. After the unsuspecting woman foolishly obliged, the fake suitor told her to visit one of his closest friends in Pune. In reality, the 'close friend' was none other than him. Upon her arrival, he allegedly spiked her drink, attempted to rape her and when she realised what he was all about, threatened to post her compromising photographs on the Internet. Fortunately, the woman complained to the police and the accused is now in custody.
We've heard of several cases like this in the past, but a lot of folks continue to learn a lesson the hard way. While matrimonial websites are phenomenally successful and lead to a lot of successful matches, the bottom line is that getting flirty online is a risk. And you shouldn't be putting yourself in a position for anyone to take advantage.
So ladies, here are a few pointers for when you decide to look for prospective partners online. And guys, you may want to sit up and take notice too -- a conniving lady just could just as well take you for a ride!
- Don't ever exchange personal contact details the first time you talk to somebody. He may sound intriguing and charming, but remember, you don't know the first thing about such a person. You don't want to give your telephone number or address to a freak who suddenly starts hounding you with calls or stalking you. It's happened before.
- Don't be too eager to trade photographs right away. They can be grossly misused, even if they seem harmless -- morphing, airbrushing and other tricks can alter your appearance dramatically. Don't use a webcam either -- it's like allowing a stranger to peep into your home and life. And never, ever be so foolish as to send across nude or compromising photographs of yourself to anybody -- you may end up blackmailed or worse, you may find them splayed out on X-rated Internet websites.
- Create a separate email ID for such correspondences and don't add on strangers to your social networking profiles. A hacker may be able to worm his way into your corporate or personal account and sift through your mail, photographs and anything else that's private.
- If you find the conversation getting too intimate too soon, you need to slow it down or maybe end contact with the person you're chatting with. Someone who asks about your vital statistics or whether you're a virgin the first time you hold a conversation online is not good news and his intentions are exactly what his talk implies.
- If you decide to meet up with someone you've come across on the Internet, do so only once you're entirely comfortable with the person online and make sure to do so at a public place like a coffee shop or restaurant -- no impromptu late-night drive or home visits. Agree to a time and make your way there yourself -- you may find that you don't want him to know where you live after all.
- If you find someone attractive after having met him, don't fall head over heels immediately. Make sure to remain just friends till you find out more about him. For instance, you don't want to start up a relationship and then find out six months down the line, when you're head over heels in love, that he's married and has two kids.
- Use common sense and trust your instincts. If someone's profile looks like he's too good to be true, he probably is. It's unlikely that a handsome, rich, intelligent guy who's charming as hell and has everything going for him is single and prefers to use a matrimonial website -- it would be a lot more likely that he could score dates in person. Be wary of such perfect candidates, or you may get a rude shock when young, wealthy and charming online translates into older and unemployed in real life.
What do you think of Internet dating? Have you ever had an unpleasant experience meeting prospective partners online? Ever been duped?
Published in Rediff.