We are living in a time when convenience is a valued feature among online services. Even online dating touts this particular offering, promising to take away the usual headaches associated with meeting someone for a romantic or casual hookup for the first (or umpteenth) time. Aside from not having to step out of the comfort of your own home, other conveniences offered up by online dating sites include not having to pay for an expensive meal or date initially, not needing to buy a new outfit, foregoing grooming and styling, forgetting about social awkwardness, and nixing the other trappings that typically go with the dating scene. All you need to do is sign up to an online dating site, create an account and persona, and start “hunting” for that next hook up.

No wonder there are now thousands of online dating sites accessible to practically anyone in the world. It only makes sense – there are millions of singles looking for that perfect match, or at least someone to spend some time with. There are different types of online dating sites available for practically any age, race, sexual orientation, profession, and even religion, plus lots of niches addressed in-between. Now all one needs to do to land a date with someone that matches their personality is to compare the different kinds of dating sites in existence today.

But as with any other online site promising convenience and satisfaction, there are unfortunately scams that plague the online dating scene, as well. To avoid the heartaches of falling for one (as opposed to falling for the right one), here are five qualities of a legit online dating site for you to consider.

Caters to Particular Lifestyles/Dating Niches

Not all online dating sites are created equal. There are those that cater to singles (or couples) looking for a casual hook up or a serious one, and those that are meant to be for people actively looking for long-term relationships or even marriage. Some niche sites also focus on a person’s sexual orientation, religious and cultural upbringing, chosen lifestyle or profession, and other factors that could contribute to that “perfect” (or near-perfect) match.

Whatever it is that you are looking for, be sure that the online dating site you are thinking of signing up with offers precisely that. There have been incidents involving members getting shocked at signing up for what they thought were straightforward sites that promised long-term relationships, but proposed “alternative” niches such as swinging, spouse-swapping, bondage, and other practices, instead. To avoid this, make sure to read the FAQs and terms of service, as well as testimonies, reviews, and feedback from verified members.

Dependable Matching Algorithm

Some of the most successful online dating sites boast of having a matching algorithm in place, which takes into consideration the searcher’s personal details such as age, gender, preferences, interests, hobbies, vices, location, and other factors. There is usually a preliminary questionnaire before you can start getting a potential match. Depending on the kind of date you are looking for, the results will either be someone who matches your idea of a great casual hook up, or someone possibly for a long term relationship. These matches are usually narrowed down further until you can select someone (or a couple of people) that you feel will be a suitable date or relationship potential.

Again, looking up authentic and verified reviews can help you determine if a particular online dating site has a lot of hits and misses, or if it has a successful batting average among its members. Their process or algorithm may be reliable, but everything really starts with knowing what you are looking for as far as a date or a match is concerned.

Subscription Payment and Cancellation Options

Some online dating sites offer free registration and membership, but with upsells that require you to pay to unlock certain features to access. Others demand a membership fee up front, with recurring annual or monthly expenses if you want to keep your account with them. It is crucial that the site is clear about what payments are required from its members right away, and how and when payments should be made. Assess the features that you deem necessary and the ones that are not essential to seek a match, and see if the fees for these are fair and reasonable. While you’re at it, always look for an opt-out or cancelation feature, so you can close your account with the site if you feel it isn’t working out for you and your dating life.

Value-Added Features

In this day and age, a mobile app that goes with an online service is always welcome because you can receive notifications and be up to date any time of the day, wherever you may be. Another feature to look for would be a chat service which allows members to communicate with each other (or at least make each other know that they are interested in going out on a date with them). Others also throw in a keyword search feature to help you narrow down particular traits, location, personalities, and other factors that you deem will match yours. These features may not always be available to every online dating site out there, but they add value to the entire experience and could make the process go even more smoothly.

Safety and Privacy Features

Since a lot of online dating sites require you to share certain personal information about yourself such as your location, age, profession, and other details, you must be cautious about the amount and depth of information you are willing to share. Identity fraud and theft are rampant especially in sites like these, so many of them actually require proof of identification (including a headshot) and a brief background check before you can become a bona fide member. Others also need a social media account log-in as an additional layer of safety.

As with everything that requires an online transaction, always practice caution when using your credit card information to pay for something. Hackers can take advantage of the payment portals for different kinds of sites, so make sure to read up on honest reviews about the site, and check if the address bar uses https instead of HTTP before using your credit card to make a payment.

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