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Christian Mingle Dater Gets Catfished

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Christian Mingle, a popular niche dating sites for religiously inclined singles, learned that one of its members was swindled out of a substantial amount of money from another user of the site.

A 66 year-old divorcee from Santa Fe revealed that she had been emailing with a man through the site who wooed her with flowers, text messages and phone calls. Pretending to be a U.K. citizen named David Holmes who was working on a Scottish oil rig, authorities discovered the suitor was actually Nigerian. According to authorities involved with the case, he did not seem to have a noticeable Nigerian accent.

The Santa Fe woman wired money to Holmes in increments at first totaling $300,000. She contacted authorities after she sent her last check for $200,000 to a Turkish bank account. A hold was placed on the check, and soon after a man named Wisdom Onokpite turned up to withdraw the funds. He was arrested, and authorities assumed they had caught the scammer, but it turned out he was only an associate sent to collect the money. The suspect calling himself David Holmes is still at large.

The woman claimed she had given more than half a million dollars to Holmes to invest in a fictitious oil rig. Authorities confirm they were able to get some of the money back, but not all of it.

Deputy District Attorney Cherie Bourland warned that people need to be more careful on international online dating sites, especially older daters who seem to be the target of a majority of fraud cases.

"You get the love drug in you and you end up getting duped," Bourland said.

As for daters on Christian Mingle and other online dating sites, it's good to use caution and common sense when interacting with strangers. Following are some tips to avoid being catfished yourself:

Don't share personal information. Don't give out your last name, home or work address, or any other personal information to someone on an online dating site. Remember that you don't know each other, and the person behind the profile could be lying.

Don't share financial information. This is especially important, because typically online daters who become victims of fraud do this after they have had some communication and built up a sense of trust. But if an online dater asks you for money, remember: always say no, even if your suitor is wooing you with phone calls, flowers, or messages of love. If you haven't met in person, be especially careful of declarations of love.

Meet in a public place. Never meet an online date at your home, always meet in a public place. You don't know this person or his intentions, so don't take unnecessary risks. Also, let a friend know where you are. Be safe and have fun!

Ask The Expert: Deborah Sloan from It’s A Date!

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Writing about yourself is never easy. At the best of times, it's an exercise in uncomfortable narcissism. At the worst times, it feels like a soul-crushing failure that may require you to rethink your entire identity. Those of us who are still in the earlier years of our (hopefully) long lives have an advantage: we grew up with the Internet, and social networking sites grew up with us, which means we've always had a sixth sense for presenting ourselves online.

But what about those for whom technology isn't second nature? What about the 40-somethings, 50-somethings, 60-somethings, and beyond, who don't have a clue what a hashtag is or what that funny little thumbs-up symbol does? Enter It's A Date!, Deborah Sloan's service that offers "online profile help for grownups."

It's A Date! helps single, divorced, and widowed daters over the age of 40 learn how to stand out from the crowd. Of course, not every mature single has difficulty navigating online dating, but for those who are less tech-savvy, professional writers and interviewers can make all the difference.

In a recent interview, Sloan had plenty advice to give about putting your best foot forward on the Internet:

When you're dating online, someone who sounds great on paper can turn out to be a total flop in person. How can online daters solve that problem?

  • It's almost impossible to predict what another person will do, so it's up to you to lay the most solid foundation possible. "Your online profile will help you attract other people," Sloan advises, "so you should take it as seriously as anything else you'd prepare for, like a job interview." The more thoughtful your profile, more thoughtful the people it's likely to attract. And the better targeted it is, the better chance it has of attracting the kind of person you're actually interested in.

What's the number one profile killer?

  • "Talking too much about past relationships," says Sloan. "Yes, you want to mention you've been in a relationship to show you're capable of having another one, but don't talk in detail about exes or previous lovers." The same goes for dates. Other potentially uncomfortable topics include children and finances.

Why should someone give online dating a try?

  • There are plenty of reasons to give online dating it go. It's an opportunity for a fresh start. It's a chance to meet people you know are also looking to date, unlike meeting people in bars or clubs. It's a great tool for singles who are shy about approaching people in real life. And most of all, it works.

Zoosk Reveals Profile Tips for Getting the Most Responses

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If you're looking to join an online dating site, the first two weeks after Christmas are the best time to do it. At least according to Zoosk, the dating website which typically sees a 26% increase in sign-ups during that time. According to Match.com, the busiest time of year for dating is between Christmas and February 14th.

So once you sign up for an online dating site, how do you attract the attention of other members?

Because of the expected rush of new sign-ups, Zoosk also put together data combed from over 4,000 members of the site to see what kind of profiles and pictures get the most responses. Why not make the most of your online dating experience this New Year?

Here are a few facts Zoosk shared to help you get a little more attention and increase your response rate:

Use a full-body picture. While you might feel a little self-conscious, users who post full body photos (both for males and females) typically receive three times as many messages as the average dater, and 33% more responses to their messages. It's not about looking perfect - it's showing who you are and that you have nothing to hide.

It's not all about work. People who talk about their hobbies in their online dating profiles fare better than those who don't. Exercise is always a winner. If you mention jogging, running, lifting weights or yoga, you get 21% more messages. If you say book, read or write, you also get 21% more messages. And if you mention music, guitar, or singing? You'll notice a 15% increase in your messages.

Be positive. Using words like "alone" won't help you in your online dating quest - in fact, you'll see 24% fewer messages. However, if you use words like creative, ambitious, laugh or healthy, you'll see a definite boost of 33% more messages.

Don't include pets or friends in your photos. Online daters want to know who they are dating - and if you pose with others in the picture, it takes the focus off of you. Zoosk found that having more than one person in your photo resulted in 42% fewer messages. Not only that - including pets isn't such a great idea either, even if you are looking for a pet-friendly date. Zoosk found that those who posed with animals received a whopping 53% fewer messages.

Selfies are gender-biased. If you're a guy and you want to take a selfie in the bathroom mirror, think again. You'll receive 8% fewer messages with selfie photos than your female counterparts - who receive a 4% uptick in messages with their selfies.

Happy dating!

Abuse Is Common On Social Networking Sites, But Reporting It Isn’t

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A recent survey from Harris Interactive of 5,517 UK citizens found that one in 12 (8%) users of social media sites have been the victims of online abuse in some form or another. That part of the story won't surprise anyone who's spent even a marginal amount of time on the Internet. We've seen time and time again that when you put people behind a screen name, the anonymity creates a sense of invincibility and depersonalization that makes it easier to bully others.

The part of the story may be a surprise to some is the response we are taking to online abuse. Only a third (35%) of participants in the study said they reported their abuse to the social media platform on which it took place. Half said they would have reported it, if only they knew how. Another 12% said they chose to respond to the problem by turning the situation around and bullying their abusers.

"It's interesting to note the high percentage of people who say they would have reported the abuse had they known how to, or if the process was simpler," Lee Langford, research director for telecoms, media, technology and entertainment at Harris Interactive, said. "More steps need to be taken by networking sites, such as Facebook, Twitter and Ask.fm, to increase the effectiveness of reporting tools to prevent trolling."

Another survey, conducted by campaign group Bullies Out, found that 50% of their response pool had been victims of cyber bullies, some of whom were as young as seven years old. The CEO of BeatBullying, Emma-Jane Cross, believes both the problem and the solution lie with the social networking sites themselves. "Social networking sites need to take their users' safety seriously," she said, "which includes making reporting procedures much clearer and ensuring a swift response when abuse is recorded."

The difficulty in reporting abuse on websites is that it isn't just used for reporting abuse. Even the system for reporting abuse is abused. In many cases, a disgruntled user files an unwarranted abuse report simply to get another user in trouble and exact revenge. There is no system in place to distinguish malicious abuse reports from real abuse reports, meaning that many are never taken seriously.

So what can you do? We can't eradicate abuse from the Internet completely, but there are a few steps that can be taken to decrease the likelihood of bullying:

  • Only post things you want the public to know. Once something is online, it is no longer under your control.
  • Guard your personal information closely, and ask your friends to do the same. Request that they not post personal info, negative comments, check-ins, or any other information that you're not comfortable sharing.
  • Don't say or do anything online you wouldn't in person. It may seem easier to express yourself when you are not face-to-face, but don't forget that online communication has real-life consequences.
  • Always report inappropriate behavior, harassing messages, and abusive comments to the site administrators. Even a small amount of action is better than no action.

Tips for Better Online Communication

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Communication is the most important part of online dating. You might have great pictures and an amazing profile, but if you don't reach out to matches or respond to emails, then you're letting opportunities slip by.

Also, your approach is very important when you're online dating. Remember, these are people who don't know you. They might not understand your sense of humor, or your storytelling, or why you are obsessed with a particular video game. It's important to read over your emails and ask yourself, "would I date a total stranger who sent me this email?" before you hit send.

If you want more success with online dating, which means more in-person dates than you're getting now, it might be worth examining how you communicate with people online first. Following are some general rules for emailing your matches:

Respond quickly. It' important to check in with your online dating site every day, even if it's just for ten minutes. If someone emails you, they typically don't want to wait several days for a response or they just move on. Dating moves quickly, so don't get left behind.

Reach out to more people. Have you sent twenty emails this week? Then maybe you should double or triple the number. Online dating is definitely a numbers game unfortunately, and if you're emailing someone who gets a hundred emails a day in her inbox, then it's difficult to stand out. Don't be so selective - after all, you don't know these people, you only get a little information from a picture and profile. Their energy in person is usually what attracts you. So get to the date before you write someone off the list. Send more emails to more people.

Don't be generic. Many women get the same email from different guys, along the lines of "hey, sexy how are you?" If you want to get a woman's attention, don't compliment her looks or ask how she's doing. Instead, read her profile and craft your email with questions that relate. Better yet, in the subject line refer to something in her profile - it will make her much more likely to open your email than if you just say, "hello."

Check your spelling. Many online daters think this doesn't matter, but spelling and grammar are extremely important factors in online dating. These are also easy to check and fix with spellcheck and grammar tools. So don't be lazy and let this one slide. Proof your emails before you send them out.

Why the Grass Might Be Greener

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A few months ago, Brandon, a newly single friend, came to my city to visit me. What made the largest impression on him wasn’t the architecture or the attractions the city had to offer; it was the women. “Whoa, maybe I should move here,” he said, eyeing a group who were walking past us. “The women seem much more beautiful here.”

In reality, the women here are likely not any more attractive than in Brandon’s city; he was simply seeing them from a different perspective. We were at a park, in the midst of a hot summer, surrounded by beachwear; not at Brandon’s local grocery store. It’s also worth mentioning that Brandon was just out of a long-term relationship; he was probably actively looking at women much more than he had in years. And there’s one element that can’t be underestimated; the women, the faces, were simply different from the ones he normally encounters.

For many, the grass is very often greener on the other side of the fence. Even if you’re surrounded by attractive people, they soon become familiar. And if you associate negative connotations with them, that familiarity can breed contempt.

For example: let’s say you belong to an online dating site, and have for some time. It started out well, but lately you’ve been in a dating desert: no one seems to reply to your first-contact emails, and no new faces seem to be signing up. The same old profiles seem to mock you.

Instead of toughing it out, pinning way too many hopes and expectations on any new profile you see, why not take a break and enjoy different scenery? It could mean trying a different site, or even doing something different in your everyday routine - going to that park instead of looking for love at the grocery store, for instance.

Sometimes the only thing that will get you out of a rut is time, but that doesn’t mean you have to sit there, watching the clock. Why not try something outside your personal box? The grass just might be greener on the other side of that fence.