Match.com has begun screening for users whose names appear on public sex offender registries. As I told the E-Commerce Times, “Doing nothing is a poor option. Also, consider that not every sex offender is tech-savvy, and some will get banned.”

My first passion has always been personal security as it relates to violence prevention. I got into this business 20 years ago as a result of violence in my own life, and began to write, speak and train in self-defense. Things are no different today, except that there are now many more ways for bad guys to ensnare their victims.

Studies show online dating and matchmaking services are growing, even in a recession. Many single men and women are signing up and attending speed-dating sessions than ever before. There are a couple of reasons for the increase in online dating’s popularity. First, it is cheaper to join a service than to spend money on countless bad blind dates. Second, in turbulent times, people want the comfort of a romantic partner. Having a companion to share in the fear, uncertainty, and doubt can help people vent and find relief.

Protect yourself from online dating scams and risks.

1. Educate yourself about self-defense techniques and personal security. Watch instructional videos or take a course. The single most effective self-defense offering on the planet is a program called “Impact Model Mugging,” which you can find nearby with an online search. Taking this course is worthwhile, even if you have to drive 500 miles, and bring your children. In this case, knowledge certainly is power.

2. You’ve probably heard this advice before but it merits repeating. Drive yourself to meet your date in a public, populated location, and continue to do this for the first several dates. Get to know the energy of your potential mate, learn what makes them tick, before offering your trust. Be alert for unhealthy behaviors. If they are easily irritated or make offensive jokes, move on.

3. Do not drink alcohol when meeting someone from the Internet, even with a meal. Alcohol lowers inhibitions and leads us to accept inappropriate behavior. Don’t accept drinks from anyone unless you see the drink being poured and it goes straight to your hands. Slipping drugs in drinks happens every day.

4. Be direct about splitting the bill for dinner. While this may seem extreme to some, studies show that a large percentage of men still feel that after buying a woman dinner, she “owes” him sex.

5. Get information about your date. Ask all the questions: name, address, previous address, home phone number, cell phone, place of birth, birth date, workplace, license plate, and if you can squeeze it out of them, I kid you not, get their Social Security number.

6. Do your own sex offender checks. Do background checks, Use Google and Facebook. Vet your potential mate thoroughly, since determining who you might marry is about as important as any life decision can be.

Online dating services must also take on a certain level of responsibility for members’ personal security. One option is to take advantage of new technologies such as device reputation management, which identifies user devices and analyzes their history, allowing websites to ban users whose device history indicates that they pose a threat to other users.

Robert Siciliano, personal security and identity theft expert contributor to iovation, discusses dating security on E! True Hollywood Story. (Disclosures)

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