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According to Online Dating Magazine, 20 percent of Americans have gone out on a date with someone they met online, while more than 280,000 marry someone they met online every year. In the UK a reported one in five relationships start online. If you're new to the game, here are a few pointers on what to expect.
1. Decide how much control you want, advises WebMD. Some sites, such as Match, let you decide who you can meet, while other sites, such as eHarmony, suggest potential dates for you. Also check the costs, and don't ignore smaller, more regional sites.
2. Create a strong but honest profile. Avoid lying about your age, background, or habits, but avoid disclosing too much until you to know someone. Post some flattering but up-to-date photos, and avoid anything too overtly sexual.
3. Expect some dishonesty. "Online dating is advertising, rather than making a connection. And advertising is full of falsehood and exaggeration," relationship therapist Terri Orbuch Tessina told WebMD. "You can expect them to present the best picture they can and to shave years off their age and pounds off their weight."
4. Don't fall for fraud. "Like any new technology, there are some downsides to online dating, too," says Wichita State University's Deborah Ballard-Reisch, an expert on communication and relationships. "One of the biggest is fraud." She adds: "There are a number of international consortiums that get on online dating sites and pretend to be someone they're not in order to get money out of people. So if someone asks you to send them money, especially out of the country, run."
5. Start sleuthing. Since friends and family can't vet your potential online dates, you'll have to do some detective work. Before you meet someone in person whom you've met online, Google them, Ballard-Reisch advises. "Use multiple search engines. Consider seeking criminal background checks. Make sure that people are who they say they are."
6. Meet in a public place. Always meet in a public place the first few times. Also it's a good idea to let your family or friends know where you're going, with whom, and when you'll return. Keep your phone handy, and if something feels off with the date, leave, experts advise.