Dating Online? Kiss & Tell List! wants your story
Author: Linda S. Hopkins
Finding true love has never been easy, but thanks to the Internet, looking for it has become a national pastime. “Plenty of fish in the sea”? You bet! Recent statistics indicate that 44 percent of the adult American population is single. That’s over 100 million people. And according to dating studies, at least half of them are casting their nets on the World Wide Web.
For singles looking for love, that’s the good news. The bad news is that, among the well-intentioned who are legitimately seeking prospective dates or future life partners, lurk predators, aggressively targeting the lonely under the guise of romance. Hilton Head Islander, Jacey Gordon wants to do something about it.
Gordon is co-founder of a new Web service, Kiss & Tell List!, designed to help facilitate online dating safety by offering a place for people to share their stories—the good, the bad or the ugly. Kiss &Tell List! is not a dating site, she emphasized, but a positive resource for anyone who is currently using or contemplating the use of Internet dating services or social networking sites for the purpose of making romantic connections.
According to Gordon, Internet dating is a phenomenal opportunity to broaden your horizons and increase the odds of meeting your match. “You may not meet that wonderful person if you are stuck in the proximity of 25-50 miles of where you live,” she said. “We want people to enjoy dating but, in doing so, to avoid those who would deny them that pleasurable experience.”
Urging common sense and caution Gordon said, “If you don’t possess ‘street smarts’ and you trust out of naivety everything someone says, you are most likely going to become a target for the unscrupulous.” Scammers are patient and will go to great lengths to snare their victims, she warns. “Someone who immediately tells you that you are beautiful or handsome or everything they want in life may be priming you for financial or physical abuse,” she said, adding that single moms are frequently targeted by pedophiles or child abusers who will do or say anything to gain your trust and get access to children.
But Internet fraud is an equal opportunity crime, and men are being victimized, too. “Women, many of whom are coming from other countries (Russia, for example) post very appealing profiles,” said Gordon. “They are beautiful, but the pictures are not always of themselves—they can be of models. They say that they are hungry. For some reason they want to come to the U.S. They need a ticket. They plead for help. Guys’ egos are stroked and they send money. The women never buy the ticket to come to the States.”
People from Ghana or Nigeria are also posting sob stories with falsified information and pictures, according to Gordon. “The problem for the FBI is that these people are out of the country. It is difficult for law enforcement to intervene because they are out of their jurisdiction.”
Why kiss and tell?
Gordon, a widow, got the idea for Kiss &Tell List! when one of her early online dating experiences turned out to be an attempted financial con. Fortunately, she recognized the red flags and ended the relationship before she fell victim to what has more recently been coined the “Sweetheart Swindle.” The more she learned about similar romance scams and other online dating dilemmas, the more serious she got about helping others navigate the virtual minefield. Enlisting the help of Web master, Ronald Baker, she began the task of creating Kiss and Tell List!. Under construction for a year and a half, the site officially launched in June of 2008.
In addition to a place to share online dating stories, Kiss & Tell List! offers a full array of advice and safety tips. “A lot of this is common sense and some of it came from my own experiences—the good and the bad. I learned like everybody else what to do and what not to do,” said Gordon. But the site offerings go far beyond her personal story. Gordon has conducted extensive research to provide a complete source for online daters, including investigative tips and links to organizations that can offer further assistance.
“Our Web site will serve as an online focal point for delivering information,” said Baker. “It will offer ‘one-stop’ shopping for everything you need to know about selecting a dating service as well as learning about people you may meet there.”
While Gordon and Baker are aware of abuse-reporting services and dating tips being offered by various search engines and within some of the popular online dating venues, Gordon says these sources are limited by comparison to what she intends her site to become. “Kiss and Tell List! is a very necessary tool,” she said, explaining her goal to create a more centralized, more comprehensive list that covers a broad base of Internet daters, emulating an online Better Business Bureau® or Consumer Reports.
How you can kiss and tell
According to Gordon, anyone can post a story on Kiss & Tell List!, free of charge. Currently, she is soliciting stories from area daters in order to build credibility and expand the site. Her intent is to spread the word locally and regionally with the ultimate goal of reaching online daters nationwide. You can help by posting your story. To do so, visit www.kissandtelllist.com and look for the “Add my Story” link on the homepage. Gordon points out that the site is not a negative resource. “It isn’t only about people who are unhappy. We are also looking for people who are willing to tell stories that emphasize safe dating and positive results,” she said.
Actual names, addresses and phone numbers are not allowed, but usernames and the site where you met should be revealed in your story. No pictures are posted—only a male or female silhouette. “There are people who are using false pictures, so to use an actual photo could hurt an innocent person,” Gordon explained. “Someone also could write a story that is vindictive—intentionally telling a lie to hurt someone. To combat that, we offer the opportunity for the person to tell the other side of the story.”
Admittedly, it is not a perfect system. “We’re aware of people who know that they are among those who have been listed. If they are truly not good people, they can change their username. But someone else will discover this person up the line and tell the story again,” said Gordon.
“There are many people who have horrendous stories to tell who will never come forward. Those people will remain on the sites and no one will know except the victims,” she continued. “We are not a cure, but we are a possible way for people to help others. It’s a way to keep family and friends safe.”
Check it out!
Visitors to kissandtelllist.com can watch a brief video introduction and browse the site. A guest membership package, offered free of charge, allows limited access to stories and advice. Premium or “Gold” membership offers expanded services with all the privileges of the site, including full access to all posted stories, dating tips, red flags, blogs, discussion threads, investigative tools and other related resources. Subscriptions are offered on a monthly or quarterly basis.
Help protect yourself and your loved ones by supporting the efforts of Kiss & Tell List. Tell your story today. For more information, visit www.kissandtelllist.com.