Tips on how to date safely and securely. By Karen Mooney, ABIA Press Officer

Over the past 23 years since I have been in the industry, Introduction/ dating agencies have grown beyond all belief especially since the advent of on-line dating in 2000. Millions of people find love via the web each year. When I first entered the industry in 1988, joining an agency was seen as a last resort – fast forward to 2010 it is now seen as a first port of call. Figures released by Google say that in the last 12 months:
• 52% of men and 48% of women have used the internet to find love
• 53% of singles (59% men and 46% of women) say they intend to use the internet to meet someone in the future
• 49% of men and 36% of women stated they would not curb their dating spending in a tight economy

With such a growing market and more and more people using agencies (whether on-line or off-line), some normally sensible singles lose their head when it comes to affairs of the heart. So here are a few dating security tips:

1. Never reveal too many personal details about yourself.
2. Never invite someone you have not met before to your home.
3. Meet, perhaps, for a coffee at a mutually convenient venue.
4. Never have too much alcohol.
5. Dress appropriately – nothing too revealing if you are female, it can give the wrong impression.
6. If you seem to click with a stranger in cyberspace and they ask you for money after telling you a hard luck story – usually, “I want to see you but I don’t have enough money to travel”; “I’ve been robbed/beaten and my wallet stolen”; “I need urgent surgery” or “my mother/father/sister etc is seriously ill and I can’t afford the medical bills”, don’t be taken in. NEVER hand over any cash.
7. Watch out for serial daters. These are usually men (but not always) who use the internet for casual relationships and/or sex. You can usually spot them by checking out several different websites and if your date has been active on a few I can generally say he/she is a serial dater!
8. Lastly use your ‘gut feeling’, if something your date says doesn’t add up beware, it’s probably not true.
By following these simple 8 steps (especially if dating on- line) there should be no problem with safe dating.

If joining an on-line agency make sure it’s fairly well known, preferably with an office address and a land line telephone number you can contact them on if necessary, preferably UK based. Unfortunately there is no Trade Association or Code of Practice for on-line dating agencies at this moment in time. More and more people are signing up to hundreds of ‘free’ dating sites found on the net – be sure that you are posting your details onto a reputable site as anyone can start a dating site. It could be Jo Bloggs from his spare room!

Traditional introduction agencies can offer a high degree of protection. Many check out the identity of applicants before taking them onto their books, so at least you know that ‘John Smith’ is exactly who he says he is. Those agencies which interview prospective members also ensure that the Daniel Craig lookalike you thought you were meeting doesn’t turn out to be Nick Cotton from Eastenders! That, together with an independent, experienced judgment as to whether you are in fact potentially compatible, can save a lot of time, effort and heartache.

If joining a traditional Introduction/dating agency make sure they are a member of the Association of British Introduction Agencies. We have been established since 1981 and have a strict Code of Practice. The Association is generally recognized as the authoritative voice of the industry. Its members provide a reputable and ethical service.

Karen Mooney
Press Officer
The Association of British Introduction Agencies