By Erika Ettin Tribune News Service.
People ask me all the time what "red flags" to look for when reading someone's online dating profile or email. Obviously, much of what you determine to be a red flag is subjective, but it's important to keep an eye out for a few things:
Photos with dates from more than two or three years ago... or no pictures at all!
This person may be trying to deceive you into thinking that he or she looks like a younger (and often more attractive) version of him or herself. Or by not posting any pictures, again, he or she may be hiding something from you.
Too many pictures not showing the profile-writer's face.
Whether it's true or not, it looks like he or she is trying to hide something.
A laundry list of things they don't want in a partner instead of what they do.
If the person is listing many negative things, it's possible that he or she is bitter for some reason or might be just out of a relationship and is simply rehashing all of the negative qualities in the last partner.
If you find information in someone's profile that seems to contradict itself, such as age, occupation, children or level of education, it may be that a lie is not so well disguised.
A long-winded email to you that says nothing about your profile but goes on to tell his or her life story.
This is a copy/paste job at its finest. If the person is still of interest to you, I recommend responding with, "I'd love to hear what caught your attention in my profile." Then you'll either get a real, personalized response or not.
An email with his or her email address and phone number in it.
Something just screams "fishy" here. Why the urgency?
An email containing strange links to photos or third-party websites.
Um... creepy. Enough said.
An email asking for any personal information besides your phone number or email address, such as social security number, date of birth, address... or money.
If any of this happens, run! I would also block this user and alert the online dating company as you see fit.
Someone does not agree to meet you in a timely fashion, within about two weeks from when you start emailing each other, or the person cancels several times.
There is probably a reason he or she is not agreeing to meet. After one time, give a pass, but after two or more, it's probably best to let it go. And if the person does not live close enough to meet in a timely fashion, suggest FaceTime or Skype.
All of this said, I am not recommending that you assume the worse. In fact, I'm recommending the opposite. Give someone the benefit of the doubt unless you uncover one of the red flags listed. And, of course, be safe. ___ (Erika Ettin is the founder of A Little Nudge, where she helps others navigate the often intimidating world of online dating)