Erika Ettin: The 10 Red Flags Of Online Dating

By Erika Ettin Tribune News Service

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Dating expert Erika Ettin shares some things to look out for while scrolling online dating profiles.

Tribune News Service

People ask me all the time whether there are specific "red flags" to look for when reading someone's online dating profile or message. Obviously, what you determine to be a red flag will be subjective, just like your personal deal-breakers, but below are a few things to watch out for on your venture into online dating:

1. Photos with dates (if they are oblivious enough to leave a timestamp or put an old date in the caption) 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 more attractive, slimmer, etc.) version of him or herself. Or by not posting any pictures, again, you have to wonder why.

2. Too many pictures not showing the profile writer's face. No one needs to see your "lifestyle," as many have rationalized to me by posting pictures of sailboats, strawberries, mountains, you name it. Ultimately, the person on the other end just wants to see one thing _ the version of you who will walk through the door on the date. No more; no less.

3. A laundry list of things they vehemently do NOT want in a partner instead of what they do. I've discussed positive versus negative before (turn something you don't want into what you do instead). If the person is listing many qualities he or she does not want in a partner, it comes off as bitter and angry, or perhaps that person just got out of a relationship and is simply rehashing all of the negative qualities in the last partner. Whatever the reason, it's not a good sign.

4. Very odd spelling and/or grammar. I don't know why, but many scammers use strange spelling and grammar, capitalizing random words, throwing in rogue commas, and otherwise missing the ball on how to write properly. While, of course, it could simply be someone whose first language is not English, it's worth giving it an extra read.

5. Contradictory information If you find information in someone's profile that seems to contradict itself, such as age, occupation, number/age of children, or level of education, it may be that a lie is not so well-disguised. Also, many will list at the bottom, "I'm really XX years old, but I lowered it for searching purposes." A lie is a lie. And a lie is a red flag.

6. A long-winded message to you that says nothing about your profile but goes on to tell his or her life story. People who write to you should mention something in your profile. 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. If not, then it's time to move on. These self-indulgent messages are usually copied and pasted to many people.

7. The first message with his or her email address and phone number in it. Why the urgency? Something just seems "off" when this happens.

8. A message containing strange links to photos or third-party websites. Creepy. Enough said.

9. A message asking for any personal information such as social security number, date of birth, address ... or money. If any of this happens, run. And run fast! I would also block this user and alert the online dating company as you see fit.

10. Someone does not agree to meet you in a timely fashion, 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. Yes, he or she may be nervous, or it may be a "catfishing" (pretending to be someone else) situation. The point of online dating is to meet, so without that, any additional communication is not worth it.

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. Use your common sense, 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)

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