Retro: Silver Surfer looking for nurse with a purse

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Many modern day romantics looking for love may well view Valentine’s Day with some optimism this year, especially as they have decided to dip their toes into the world of online dating, seeing it as the answer to making all their fairy tales and dreams come true.

Alas, romance electronically comes with many pitfalls, even though there are many genuine, trustworthy and very nice people who are looking for love or companionship.

You have to be prepared to ‘kiss a few frogs’ along the way to get Mr or Mrs Right

Being on line for any reason can make you very vulnerable, especially to the internet lotharios who are waiting patiently to rip off the lonely, the widowed, the divorced and the trusting.

But it seems that although more than 4,000 frauds of this kind are reported each year to the police, many more go undocumented usually because of the embarrassment felt by the victim, many of whom have built up a relationship with someone on line for a very long time. Scammers can be very patient – they are prepared to wait.

On the face of it, what can possibly go wrong? We’re in a technological age. Everyone’s computer literate. People of our age are now called Silver Surfers and we wouldn’t get caught out, would we? We’re too wise for that. We’ve done it all and seen it all.

If only it were so simple. For years you have been able to meet members of the opposite sex by means of introduction agencies like the Helen Hill Bureau here in Sheffield.

The fees are quite pricy but you can guarantee that the members have been carefully vetted and you are guaranteed at least eight introductions. That method has been proven to be quite successful. I know a couple who met by that means who are coming up to their ruby wedding anniversary.

There has also been the Lonely Hearts columns in newspapers and magazines. You can tell a lot from a letter forwarded on to you. But internet dating, although cheap and the modern way of doing things can be a minefield. With internet profiles you don’t know what’s true and what isn’t.

When you are young and looking for a partner it’s all about chemistry and, shared interests which may hopefully turn into love and a long-term commitment, but at a more advanced age, friendship is thought of as being most important, or at least it is with friends of mine who are in that situation.

The 50+ age group are now the fastest growing age group seeking some kind of relationship on line but there are tales told of men seeking a ‘babe’ and not anyone of their own age, or even a ‘nurse with a purse’ hoping to attract a lady friend with a ‘bob or two’ who is prepared to look after them.

But, there should be no stigma attached to this kind of dating. After all, it’s only like shopping at Tesco.

Statistics say that one in four people will visit a dating website sometime in their lifetime, and no matter how you meet someone of the opposite sex, at whatever age, you have to be prepared to ‘kiss a few frogs’ along the way to get Mr or Mrs Right.

You may think that you don’t really have that much time left at your age to waste it on someone unsuitable. That’s a risk you have to take.

Relationship experts say that the best way to meet someone on line is by joining a dating site devoted to shared interests. Like theatre, walking, politics or holidays. There are even those for disabled people, those who have jobs involving uniform, have university degrees, who are gay or vegetarian (or both). If you’re a Guardian reader, you should be able to avoid meeting someone who reads The Sun (or vice versa).

There’s no easy way to avoid meeting a scammer on line but you can be extremely wary. Be sceptical of profile photos which seem a little too glossy or good looking. Don’t fall too easily for lonely widowers whose entire family were wiped out in a car crash. And of course it’s not all one-sided. There are plenty of women around who are trying to get into men’s wallets.

Have confidence in yourself. You don’t have to be grateful that someone is taking notice of you.

Don’t let emotion get in the way of common sense, and above all, be wary of overt flirtatiousness or too much interest in your private affairs.

The biggest giveaway of all is when your new friend who has been carefully building up a relationship with you for ages, mentions money for any reason, often for medical or travel expenses, and in some cases for foolproof investments.

He may decide to take you away for a luxury weekend but unfortunately forget to pick up his credit card.

Recently father of 14, Matt Samuels of Birmingham fleeced five women, one a policewoman, out of a total of £180,000 to fund his lavish lifestyle.

hey were all lonely and vulnerable and he was well-mannered, intelligent, good looking, classy and above all totally plausible.

Sometimes people forget that it is better to be lonely on your own than lonely with the wrong person,

And for those who are wary of internet dating, I met my husband in a library.

Which goes to show that everyone should read more and support their local library.