SafeSurfing Guide - Personal Ads

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While the Internet provides fanstastic opportunities for people to meet, you must remember to use common sense. It's easy to get swept-up into a fantasy world, but reality suggests you use caution.

Like the offline world, the online world has its ups and downs - good and bad people. While the majority can be trusted, you must be aware of the scammers, liars and the rare but present predators. While there are risks, hiding from the world is not the answer.

There are many ways to protect yourself and improve your chances of successfully finding someone online - wheather you're looking for Mr Right or Mr Right Now! Here are several tips for you to remember.

Contents
Advice for Advertisers

Advice for respondents
  • Red Alerts
  • Advice for a first date
  • Is it Mr Right?
  • Extra tips for meeting a long distance interest

Advice for Advertisers

What's in a name

Firstly it may be best for most people to set up a different online identity based on your activities: a dating identity, a business identity, and a family identity and possibly a cruising identity, which should have different email addresses (although they can be redirected to one address to enable you to read them - see below). To help remember, use a name that you can easily retain and add a number or letter sequence on the end to reflect the account type:

Fred1234D@somewhere.com = Dating

Fred1234C@somewhere.com = Cruising

  • You could also consider using a name which implies what you are like or what you are looking for (e.g. cuteolder4younger) but bear in mind you have to live up to it!
  • A name which has a sexual connection will attract attention but not always the attention you want.
  • Use letters and numbers. Don't use hyphens or other characters in your name - the chances are others will miss-spell them.
  • Don't use an email address or ID that can obviously be used to identify you, for instance your initials, and be careful that your alias is also used in the description in your email software and not your real name.

Most ISPs allow you to have multiple email addresses on your account, this includes AOL, MSN etc.. They will also allow you to redirect all emails to the main email address saving you from logging on to each in turn if you don't want to.

Where to put your ad

Having established what identity you are going to use and created the email addresses, here's how to create and ad that will be noticed.

  • Put your personal ad on the larger recognised Personals sites that are application/database driven (Match.com, Gay.com, Gaydar.com) or sites for mature men/admirers (Silverdaddies, Apollonet, Caffmos). See the GrayGay.com dating links page for reviews and analysis.
  • The bigger the personals database the more chance you have of meeting someone compatible. But this also depends on the type of people/relationship you are looking for. For instance general dating sites (e.g. Match.com, Yahoo) are geared more to relationships. Others such as Gay.com and Gaydar are offer a more sexually explicit service.
  • If you are at all concerned about someone finding your ad, don't post it on a site that is unsecure - with no registration or login required and with a small database of profiles. It's likely that the pages will be indexed by search engines and therefore someone can find you through your email address. For an example click here.
  • Some dating sites require your address when you register for their Zip/Postcode matching service but don't include your home number or address in the ad that will appear online - you can always use a fake address which is near your real address which will enable proximity searches to work.
  • Never, ever give out personal information. This may be the most important thing for you to remember.
    Your personal information includes your real name, telephone number, personal email or home address. If they want to send something to you through the mail, get a post office box. They're not expensive! No matter how nice the other person may seem, you do not know them. While most people are decent, you can never be absolutely sure. Don't risk having this information fall into the wrong hands.

What's in the Ad

  • Be honest in your ad - if you're just looking for sex then say so. Don't lie about your age, weight or hair colour since most people have a very good idea what they are looking for and you're wasting their time as well as yours. If they are looking for someone older, generally they want them to look their age and not like someone 25 years younger.
  • Use language which fits what your looking for - if you're looking for a relationship put the accent on the positive things you like to do rather than just your sexual interests. Tell guys what you do like, rather than what you don't. "Looking for masculine guy with slender to athletic build" comes off so much better than "no fats or femmes."
  • Include your interests and hobbies - it makes you sound more human and it may enable you find someone who shares them which is always a good basis of a continuing relationship.
  • You need to think about what you're looking for - if its just physical action you want say that, if you're looking for something more don't be shy to say that (you can always have two profiles one for dating and one for sex).
  • Don't make your profile just like everyone else's. Try to have the attitude of 'I don't care what other people think, I'm going to be real' and make that apparent on your profile.
  • Be specific! Don't just say 'I like to go out and on other nights stay in and watch a movie'. I've got news for you, so does everyone else! Instead tell them your details - write in your profile WHERE you like to go out (chances are other singles will know the same spots in your area) and what kind of movies you like.
  • When giving out your location try to limit yourself to a region only, rather than the exact name of the town, province or neighbourhood. If you live in a large city, giving that information out is okay, if you're in a rural area, it's better to stick with regional information.
  • Don't publish explicit photos on the Internet or email them to others if you are at all concerned about others seeing them - you have absolutely no control over their destination once they are posted. If you do intend to include an explicit photo don't include your face.
  • If you want to protect your identity, don't send explicit photos that include your face to anyone unless you know them really, really well - probably after a face-to-face meeting.
  • Use a different email address for dating ads and redirect the mail to your usual email address (Yahoo mail and Hotmail both allow this)
  • Use more than one dating ad if you want to be explicit or consider password protecting the explicit section of your ad (some dating sites allow this e.g. Gay.com).
  • Update your ad on a regular basis even if it just changing a comma. This should improve your search ranking.

Photos

  • Adding a photo as will increase your responses up to 35% but make sure that it is current and one that shows your best features! Be honest and post a current photo even if you've gained a few pounds.
  • Smile unless you're trying to look assertive. Or includes a number of photos with different poses.
  • Use your best photo for your main profile picture - there's a lot of competition out there and you need to stand out.
  • Take the photo it in daylight (but not midday due to shadows) or in very well lit interiors. Take care with items in the background. Don't include other people unless you're dating together or illustrating a preference.
  • Avoid shadows on the face
  • Take a number of head and shoulders and full-length shots.
  • Be careful about nude pics - you have no control of their distribution once they are on the internet and they can easily be distributed widely. Best to avoid including your face in the nude pic if you are at all worried about it getting into the wrong hands, or obscure the face using image editing software (e.g. the free Picassa from www.picassa.com).
  • You don’t have to display all your photos. Most gay dating and networking sites let you conceal images - perhaps your face pic or X-rated images - then you can attach them to messages instead.
  • If you don't have with a digital camera or a scanner (or a friend with one) use a good ordinary camera and ask your photo processing lab to create digital images.
  • Don't use WebCam photos since the resolution is almost always too low and the light can make you look like an axe murderer!
  • Save the photos somewhere you can easily find them (e.g. My Pictures/Photos). If you share your computer with other users, password protect the folder (in Windows XP - right click on it and choose Properties->Sharing->Make This Folder Private).

Responses

  • It is perfectly acceptable not to reply to responses, but it's nice to provide a quick "Thanks but no thanks", especially it the guy comes across as decent.
  • WARNING: Some sites offer "Free" listing of your ad, but a payment to respond to other advertisers. They will enable you to upload you profile for free but shortly after you have joined they send you a message, supposedly from another user, saying they are interested in you. This message makes no reference to the content of your ad and is to entice you to pay the joining fee so you can respond. They will also send a similar message if you don't renew your membership.
  • Don't respond to immediate requests for money or support - if the relationship is unbalanced at the start it is likely to be unbalanced throughout - and there are plenty more to choose from.
  • When making any kind of contact whether its sending a message to another user or responding to one, make sure you reference what is in their profile.

Advice for respondents

  • If the other person's picture seems to be outdated, and they refuse to update it or won't send you a picture you must put them in the "dishonest" pile. Even if you do not have a digital camera or scanner, there's a variety of cheap and easy ways to get a photo scanned. There's no reason for someone to lie, unless they're hiding something.
  • Be clear about which advertisement you are responding to, as some people have more than one ad on different sites and won't know how much information you have seen about them already.
  • If he doesn't respond to you, it usually means he's not interested for one reason or another - and that's okay. If you must follow up, make it brief and witty. And only once.
  • Put some effort into your responses; it's easy to tell when someone is just using the form letter type inquiry. Tell the guy why you're responding to his ad in particular.
  • Be honest about yourself and what you are looking for whether that's a one-night-stand or an extended relationship.
  • Don't worry if you get a negative response or no response to an add - there are plenty more frogs to be kissed - think of it as their loss. Don't be petty. If someone doesn't respond to you or return a photo, don't bad-mouth him in your profile. It makes you look pitiful and vindictive and that's no turn-on for anyone.
  • When giving out your location try to limit yourself to a region only, rather than the exact name of the town, province or neighbourhood. If you live in a large city, giving that information out is okay, if you're in a rural area, it's better to stick with regional information.
  • Don't publish explicit photos on the Internet or send them via email if you are at all concerned about others seeing them - you have absolutely no control over their destination once they are posted.
  • Do send a recent photo with your initial contact or a link to your online profile with one. Don't send a dick-shot as most people are interested in the "overall package" and not just your dick.
  • Don't send explicit photos that include your face to anyone unless you know them really, really well - probably after a face-to-face meeting
  • Use a different email address for personal ads and redirect the mail to your usual email address (Yahoo mail and Hotmail both allow this)  

Communication

  • On the telephone
    • Activate your caller ID blocking feature to keep your number private if you call someone.
    • Don't call collect! Your number will show up on their phone bill.
    • If you want the other person to be able to contact you, use a personal cellphone/mobile number - not one that they might call you in the office on.
    • Use a payphone or a phone card. It may be a hassle, but well worth it!
  • By Email
    • Don't reveal your office or personal email address - use an address for your gay dating identity only.
    • Yahoo Mail and HotMail both have a facility to redirect mail from their system to another email address. This enables you to use a Yahoo/HotMail address for your dating activities but still receive the emails in your usual email inbox, but without the sender being aware of this - provided you only reply from your Yahoo/Hotmail address

Red Alerts...

  • Get the details. Scrutinize the emails and chat sessions you have with another person. If they seem too good to be true, they probably are. If they're vague about their life, try to non-intrusively get some details. Red flags are people who are vague, talk in circles, or answer questions with questions. Be very cautious with these types of people. They may be playing hard to get or they may be looking to deceive you.
  • Get a recent photo and a phone number as a minimum - if they can't give your this information then you're probably wasting your time.
  • Instant love may not be what it seems. While you may feel an instant connection or powerful attraction to a person online, this does not qualify as falling in love. It may however fall under puppy love, infatuation, and even lust. But scammers and con artists have used the "I'm in love with you" angle offline for countless years. What's stopping them from going online to make their next score? Love takes time no matter what the fairy tales imply. Red Alerts are people who, after minimal online contact, express their undying love.
    Other hints may be that shortly after talking about being in love with you, they also mention how broke they are, how they just got laid off from work, or how their accountant took off with all their money. While the other person may just be a lonely soul who's truly attracted to you, you can never be sure. Slow things down and don't let "love" rob you blind.
  • Don't put off meeting in person. While online relationships can be full of romance and intrigue, your ultimate goal is to meet someone, date them and possibly more. Why put it off? Why invest in a relationship online if it's going nowhere offline? Make sure the spark you get from your chat sessions and email also exists in the "real world". Red flags are anyone who puts it off or avoids answering your questions about meeting.
  • If you do not have the money or time to invest in a long distance relationship, don't start one. Online dating requires that your brain and your heart work together to make the best and safest decisions for you.
  • Someone who falls "in love" with you from a long distance after only a few messages.

Advice for a first date

  • Personal Grooming

    You may not have met someone for a date for many years but you need to make an effort, as you would hope your prospective partner would.

    - Dress for the occasion and take some trouble with your appearance.
    - Dress conservatively (save the hawain shirt and cartoon tie until later)
    - Have a shower but don't overdo the after-shave.
    -
    Get a haircut and trim nose and ear hair.
    -
    Have a shave if you're clean-shaven (shave again if you shave in the morning and you're meeting in the evening).
    - Wear clean clothes that fit you and clean underwear.

    Talking on the phone first is a good way to get to know your potential date better . But don't give your number out to anyone about whom you have even the slightest suspicion.
  • Trust your instincts. If you're getting any kind of creepy feeling, forget it.
  • Be punctual. Let your date know if you're going to be delayed. If you have to cancel don't leave it until the last minute. If someone cancels on you at the last minute it's probably best to move on and find someone else.
  • Know the age of consent laws in your jurisdiction. Be aware that, in addition to age of consent laws, many jurisdictions have specific laws forbidding the "grooming" of anyone under the age of eighteen for a sexual encounter via the Internet. If someone represents himself as under eighteen, have nothing to do with him.
  • Once you've agreed to meet face to face, don't ask the other person to pick you up. Get yourself to and from the date, even if you have to beg a ride off of a friend or take a taxi.
  • Before you go, make sure that friends know where you're going, who you're going with and when to expect you back. Make sure everyone writes down the information so that there are no misunderstandings.
  • Arrange to meet in a neutral but public place (e.g. a bar or café) and let someone else (even a barman) sees you there together (chat to the barman before your date arrives and introduce your date when he does). If you don't hit it off, it's much easier to say that you have a meeting or some other commitment that requires you to end the date prematurely.
  • Meeting for coffee is better than meeting for a meal or a drink as you don't have the influence of alcohol to cloud your mind.
  • Stay in a public place. If they pressure you to go elsewhere, say NO. If they pressure you, they obviously don't care about your feelings - don't spare their feelings. End the meeting and leave. If they start to follow you to where you've parked, stop and hail a cab. Come back later for your car with a friend or family member.
  • Don't be pressurised into giving away too much detail about yourself in the first instance - saying what you do is one thing - saying exactly where you work is quite another.
  • Take a cell/mobile phone. If you need help or feel a little nervous, excuse yourself to the bathroom and call for back up! Put together an instant, "accidental" meeting with a friend. They're also good for emergencies or in case you think your online love is an offline stalker who's following you home. Use the cell/mobile phone to call the police - just don't head back home.
  • Never leave your personal belongings unattended. A purse or wallet contains all of your personal information. In your jacket pocket could be your keys. Just don't take the risk.
  • Don't drink too much - being drunk is not a good way to be safe.

Is it Mr Right?

  • Don't feel pressurised to leap into bed on the first date. If it is Mr. Right (or even Mr Right Now) then if the chemistry is there they will wait. If not then they probably weren't right anyway.
  • If you are new to dating, try to step back and analyse what you and your prospective partner want from this relationship. If possible, discuss the issues with a mutual friend and find out what you can of your prospective partner's background (try searching for his name and his email address on Google, Facebook and other Social Networking sites).
  • Find out if your proposed partner has a history of quick dating or forming relationships, if that's what you're after.
  • Don't respond to immediate requests for money or support - if the relationship is unbalanced at the start it is likely to be unbalanced throughout.
  • If all goes well, set-up another date before the first one comes to an end. Use your best judgement and gut instincts to determine whether or not the other person is worthy of a second date. Be sure that this second date (and any others thereafter) incorporates all of these safety tips. You're worth the effort! If the other person truly cares about you, they'd expect nothing less.

Extra tips for meeting a long distance interest

Be sure to use all of the tips mentioned above, plus the following tips if you plan to travel to meet your online interest:

  • DO NOT plan to stay at the other person's home for your visit. If you cannot afford a hotel, do not go.
  • If you've made hotel reservations, do not tell the other person where you're staying. They don't need to contact you there. You can contact them. Tell them you're staying with a relative if they get too inquisitive and then if you want to reveal your hotel later, you can say that the relative had to go away so you are now staying in a hotel.
  • Be sure to keep in touch with friends and family. Have a schedule in place as to when you should call and ask your date to remind you to call - they are then aware that you have a call to make. And make sure they know where you're staying and how to reach you. Again, this is a good time to carry and use a cell/mobile phone.
  • Just in case...keep your valuables in an in-room safe or in with the front desk - they often have safety deposit boxes available for free or a minimal charge.
  • If he's travelling to be with you, then never send money for plane tickets - you probably won't see it or him again.
  • If you want to make a long-distance relationship last, then you must keep in contact – preferably daily – if you want to keep it alive. This could cost you a fortune in telephone calls and time but text messaging, instant messaging, calling cards, webcams, internet telephony (e.g. Skype.com) and email can allow such relationships to flourish despite the distance involved.

What to do after the date

  • If you want it to go on further email or preferably call him and let him know how much you enjoyed it and how much you're looking forward to the next meeting.
  • If you don't want it to go further, email him and try to let him know gently but clearly that you don't feel that this is the relationship is for you and that you wish him well.

Keep at it

  • Finding Mr Right is a numbers game - the more people you meet - the more practice you get at dating the better your understanding of who you're looking for.
  • Keep kissing the frogs! - some turn into toads, some turn into princesses but one will turn into a prince!
Resources:
GrayGay.com Personals
GrayGay.com Dating Sites Review
GrayGay.com
Books about gay relationships and dating

GayHealth.com on making a gay relationship work
 
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