Safety First

Mantas at believes "online dating is as safe, if not safer, than meeting in the 'conventional' ways," and gave two security suggestions specific to online dating.

First, "start a free e-mail account from Hotmail or Yahoo to use just for your dating e-mail." Secondly, "never use your e-mail from work." Not only are work addresses the property of your employer, they also often include the company name. With this information, someone may be able to find your full name and the address of your company.

Mantas suggests taking the normal precautions of a blind date, and urges women to tell their date that loved ones know where they are and when to expect them home.

Hit and Miss

Not all people are as lucky as Sue and Barry, Gilda and Hiro, or Tim and Ellis. Misconnections fill cyberspace. However, most of the online dating 'horror' stories I found were really simple tales of disappointment.

Leah, a bartender in St. Paul, corresponded through an AOL chat room with Ricco, a West Coast computer analyst, for several months. They both had black labs and shared a passion for shopping, movies, and solitaire games.

When Ricco said he was coming to Minneapolis on business, Leah was excited. "I thought finally we would meet in person," she said.

However, Leah was dismayed when Ricco stopped on their first date to purchase nose hair clippers.

"Like he couldn't have done this before we met," Leah says.

Leah's story is a reminder that not every encounter in cyberspace will become a match made in heaven.

"It wasn't that he was not attractive, it was more that he was too comfortable with me right away," she said. "I think first impressions are important."

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