Stay safe while searching for that special someone

HOUSTON (KTRK) -- Three months after officials say Donna Kay Cloud met up for a date with a man she knew only through Facebook, the 19-year-old is still a missing person.

Though it may be popular to look for love online, app and online dating comes with its share of pitfalls, making it tricky to separate serious daters from the fakers.

RELATED: Top 10 spots to go after meeting online in Houston

If you're unattached, Houston's matchmakers weigh in on how to be safe and sensible while searching for that special someone:

Joseph Velasco, matchmaker with Rose Matchmaking says that if you're going to online date, use an app that sources profile information from other forms of social media. Apps that allow you to fill in profile information increase the odds the person in the picture might not be who they say they are.

"It's very easy to put a picture on a profile that might not be yours because there's no steps to verify that you are that person."


Megan Daly, another matchmaker with Rose Matchmaking says she'll tell friends when, where and with who she goes on dates with but not before doing her due diligence.

"Creep on them on social media, see what kind of person they are. If they don't really have a profile, that's a little weird these days --when somebody doesn't that's a red flag."

Sameera Sullivan, CEO of Lasting Connections says the number one scheme to lookout for is catfishing, often young men on dating sites targeting older women for their personal information under the guise their dating site subscription is about to expire.

"These guys were not real and I know people who have fallen for catfishing and they've moved to other countries and spent all kinds of money for that person and lost everything," said Sullivan.

A few other tips from Sullivan:

"There's a lot of catfishing out there so when people are emailing you, have substantial conversation, but within three or four emails, find out what their first and last name is. Where did they work? Look up their LinkedIn profile."

"If you've already exchanged three or four emails within the first week, get on the phone with them, see if they're real. Keep it 20, 30 minutes. If the conversation is great, okay, don't do too much because when you meet them in person you'll have nothing to talk about."

And when it does come time for the first date, Sullivan says stick to a public place and try to do something quick in the middle of the day. Coffee at a cafe is non-committal and if the date is a dud, you can always excuse yourself to go back to work.

"Don't ask guys to pick you up, don't give somebody your address and where you live and on a first day don't invite them over, if you haven't ever seen them, you've just met them online."

As to how to look for love, Sullivan says the old-fashioned, in-person way is best. Sullivan suggests being aware of your surroundings and seeing the opportunity in even mundane trips to the supermarket helps to open daters up to the possibility of love in many more places.

"Be alert, that's your dating app right there --that's how you're going to meet the right person," she said. "Don't rely so much on technology."
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