There's no need to mope if you're spending this Valentine's Day alone. New research out this week shows that more and more people are finding love online. If you've not tried online dating before, read on for our guide on how to date safely and find love using your Plusnet broadband.
Online dating - the latest research
New research from the University of Rochester, Texas, has revealed that more single people are using online dating to find a partner than ever before. In fact, a study published this week by the university has shown that online dating has become the second most popular way to meet your partner - just a whisker behind being set-up by friends. Dr Harry Reis, one of the report's authors, has explained that there's now little or no stigma attached to online dating, as busy people are going online to meet new faces and find romance. So, if you've been afraid of online dating before or haven't put much stock into it, now could be the time to get online and give it a try.
Dating sites to try …
Match.com claims to be responsible for more relationships and marriages than any other online dating site in the UK. So, if you're serious about finding love online, this site could be right for you. It's free to register, take a compatibility quiz and send one email to your matches - after that, you'll have to pay to be able to message your matches and read the emails that they send you.
EHarmony claims to be unlike any other dating website in the UK, thanks to its compatibility software. You fill in an extensive questionnaire, and the site matches you with people who share similar values, intelligence levels and senses of humour. You can join and review your matches free of charge, but you'll need to pay in order to correspond with potential partners.
If you work shifts it can be hard to meet new people or find people who don't mind dating around your shift-work. Uniform Dating is an online dating site for people who work in uniform - like nurses, fire-fighters and police officers - or people who fancy them. It's free to join, search and chat too.
If you're a little shy about setting up a profile or outlining who you are and what kind of person you'd like to meet, MySingleFriend.com could be the best pick for you. Sign up with another single friend, and write each other's profiles - your friend can do all the hard work and outline why prospective dates should get in touch with you.
Our online dating dos and don'ts
Sign up to more than one dating site - you'll stand a better chance of meeting someone you like.
Be honest - fibbing about your height, weight, hair colour or looks could lead to disappointment and rejection. Be honest about your age, what you look like and what you're looking for in a date. You might get less interest, but the emails you do get will be less likely to waste your time or end in heartbreak.
Smile in your profile photo - it's been proven that people are more likely to contact and approach a smiling person.
Consider video calling your date using free services like Skype before you arrange to meet up in person. That way you can see exactly what they look like and find out whether or not they've been honest when describing themselves.
Stay safe using our online dating safety tips below.
Continue to talk with a contact that is inconsistent with their information, ignores questions you've asked or tries to pressure you into sharing your information or going on a date.
Have a strict shopping list. This week, scientists warned that some people are approaching online dating much like shopping, and could be missing out on romance by being too strict with their preferences and only corresponding with people who meet their exacting specifications.
Stay safe with our top online dating tips
Be safe online …
Before you start online dating, make sure your computer is secure and you've picked strong passwords - please don't use your birthday, a pet's name, your mother's maiden name or any passwords you've used to protect your online banking, shopping or email accounts.
Set up a new email account that's just for online dating instead of using your work or personal email account – If you don’t already have a Plusnet email address then you can create one here. If you already have a Plusnet email address then why not create a new mailbox for your online dating accounts? We recommend you avoid using your full name in your email address in order to safeguard yourself from fraud and ID theft.
Don't give out your personal details too quickly. While you're building up trust, don't give out your telephone number, mobile number, address, instant messenger or Facebook details, as conmen could use these to steal your identity or even to find and burgle your home.
Be wary of clicking on URLs that potential dates might send you - fraudsters sometimes use fake URLs to phish for data which they can then use for identity fraud.
Be safe offline …
Always meet your date in a public place.
Tell a friend or family member where, when and who you're meeting - or, better still, arrange to go on a double date and take a friend along.
Charge your mobile phone and make sure you've got plenty of credit.
Arrange to call a friend or family member when your date is finished so they know you've returned home safely.
Allow trust to build over a few dates; don't share your address or any other sensitive details on your first date.
Limit your alcohol intake, and be watchful of your drink so you know that it's not been tampered with.
Are you using your broadband connection to look for love this Valentine's Day? Have you got any dos, don'ts or safety tips that you'd like to share? Please leave us a comment and let us know …