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Check on-line friends before getting them too close

The Internet has become one of the latest places to meet people. Whether you are looking for a casual friend or a romantic interlude, it can all be found on the worldwide web places like Facebook and Myspace give you a forum to express yourself to others, and the number of matchmaker sites these days is overwhelming.

If you have ever spent any time meeting and greeting on the web, you know that most people are not exactly what they make themselves out to be. Some of them have gone so far as to create an entire alternate identity.

Despite the dangers, the rewards of meeting online can be great. You have the opportunity to get to know others from all over the world. You make new and interesting friends from places you may never have visited. It provides an excellent opportunity for us to share our cultures and open our minds to new possibilities.

Who is really behind that screen name?

When you make new friends online, how do you know if they are trustworthy? Can you really afford to get close to them, or are Internet friendships best kept very casual?

As with any new relationship, go slowly and proceed with caution. Keep the topics of conversation neutral and safe never discuss anything personal with someone you do not know. Be instantly suspicious if your new friend begins questioning you about your finances.

If you have been conversing with someone for a while and feel a connection, you may decide you want to take the friendship a step further. You may begin to share more personal details of your life, or you may begin making plans to meet each other in person.

Take smart measures to protect yourself

Before taking this step towards increased intimacy, be sure to reasonably protect yourself. First of all, try to validate your new friend's identity and ensure they really are who they say they are. Search records from the Department of Motor Vehicles in your friend's area and see if you can locate a license or identification card that matches the name, date of birth, physical description, and address of your new friend. If you cannot find a matching motor vehicle record, try voter registration records or trace social security number.

One of the best ways to protect yourself is to conduct an online background check of your friend. Any court documents from judgments, divorces, or lawsuits should contain some sort of identifying information you can verify. Criminal history checks will normally provide you with a date of birth and physical description, including any major scars or tattoos.

There are also specialized background check companies, such as Net Detective, who for a small fee, give you the ability to search all of the above records and more. You must do a little sleuth work of your own, though, and find out some important key identifiers from your new friend so you will know when you have found him or her.

Meeting on the Internet can be exciting. You must just ensure you go about it prudently, and protect yourself until you have solid facts reinforcing your ability to put your trust into your new friend.

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