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By Cindy McDonald, from Best Christian Dating Sites:

IF youíre single and looking for love or companionship online in this day in age... itís no secret that it can be tough out there. And because of the dangers hiding behind every '.com,' not only do you have to protect your fragile heart from being broken, but you also have to protect your wallet from being robbed. So before you take to the dating scene on the web, it is essential to educate yourself on the various mistakes that could leave you loveless and penniless. Check out the following financial pitfalls in online dating and tips for avoiding them in your quest for a cyber-relationship:

Mistake #1: Skipping over the fine print. If you rush into signing up to an online dating service without carefully reviewing the terms and conditions, you could be setting yourself up for financial failure. To save yourself from surprise, make sure you read and fully understand the fine print of the contract before you sign up. Take special notice to the portion that discloses how much notice you need to give and how to go about cancelling your membership. If youíve decided to cancel your online dating subscription, a common misbelief is that payments cease the moment you put in your request. But this isnít always the caseómost of the time you will find that thereís always a notice period.

Mistake #2: Selecting a recurring payment plan. If your online dating service provides a non-recurring payment option, it will be in your best interest to use this method. A non-recurring plan is set up so that you pay only for the period you want and you wonít be charged any more unless you decide to extend your subscription.

Mistake #3: Choosing a payment option you canít cancel. Sometimes a non-recurring payment plan is not availableóseveral online dating sites prefer instead to use a re-billing system because it generates for them higher profits. So if you have no choice but to go with automatic billing, then you can save yourself from financial headache by selecting a payment option that allows you to be in charge of cancellation. Set up your online dating subscriptions with PayPal, direct debit or a standing orderóthese methods allow for easily bowing out of your online dating experience.

Mistake #4: Being unaware of your rights. When you authorize an online dating company to collect their money by way of regular payment from your debit or credit card, it can create monetary issues because you canít cancel the payments yourself. It is important that you are aware of your rights so you know the proper ways around such problems. Try using a pre-paid card which requires you to back up the card with cash before you spend anythingÖthis way thereís no chance of overpaying if you keep the cardís balance low. If you use a standard card like the majority of people, just make sure you follow the strict procedures to cancel your services.

Mistakes make in the throes of passion could come back to haunt you!
Mistake #5: Cancelling the wrong way. Online dating services are infamous for cancellation problems that can cost their customers unnecessary amounts of money. This is why itís crucial to know the correct way to cancel your membership:
  • Get the dating company youíve been subscribed to on the phone and speak to a representative who can walk you through your cancellation. To stay in control, be sure to follow up with an email confirming your wishes to leave the services of the company.
  • If you went the route of paying with a PayPal account, direct debit or standing order, the good news is you can go ahead and cancel the payments yourself, without dealing with the hassle of communicating with your former online dating service.
  • If you paid via credit or debit card, you canít cancel your payment directly, but be aware that any further payments taken after cancellation will be noted as unauthorized transactions. If this happens, dispute the charges with your bank or distributing credit card company who should remedy the problem for you. You might have to show your bank proof of cancellation but they should then initiate a charge back to refund the money and cease future debits to your account.

Mistake #6: Being too trusting: Because of the anonymity that the internet provides, you never know who exactly it is that youíre communicating with. Needless to say, it is dire to take things slow and keep all personally identifying information to yourself until you are confident the person you are communicating with is worthy of your trust. If you give out information like your home address, place of employment, email address, last name or direct financial info, someone with the wrong intentions could use it to take you for a financial roller coaster ride or even inflict physical harm upon you.

Mistake #7: Being uninformed about romance-scams. You could face a world of trouble if you enter the World Wide Web without understanding the dangers of romance scams. This is an issue that is becoming more and more of a problemóin fact, scammers are credited for ten percent of free online dating accounts that are new each day. Hereís what you need to know:
  • Romance scams defined: Romance scams are confidence tricks by money hungry con-artists involving faux-romantic intentions toward a vulnerable victim, gaining their trust and affection, and in return using that goodwill to commit evil acts of fraud. In most cases these fraudulent acts involve access to money, bank accounts, credit cards and passports of the scammerís prey.
  • Signs of a scammer: Watch for the following signs to help you determine whether or not you have a scammer on your hands:
    • Youíve never met in person.
    • Correspondentís profile picture is too good to be true.
    • Love is professed almost immediately.
    • You receive flowers and other gifts right away.
    • Correspondent uses poor spelling and grammar that does not align with their alleged education level or career.
    • Correspondent claims to be from the US but is overseas working, often times in Nigeria or Russia.
    • You are asked to give this person money for issues surrounding medical problems, business affairs, family emergencies, etc.
    • Correspondent continually asks for money, but never visits.

This guest post is brought to us by Cindy McDonald, who enjoys educating readers on how to safely date online. In addition, Cindy also works for Best Christian Dating Sites where she offers her relationship and dating advice to the online Christian community.