NEW YORK – Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o has become the poster boy for dating people you have never actually met in person.
Last week it was revealed that the Heisman Trophy candidate was a possible victim of a ‘sick’ cyber hoax. Te’o said he was hoodwinked into thinking he was dating a real girl who then died of cancer. That all turned out to be a lie.
Which in turn has opened up a debate about the danger of online dating and how you can avoid being a victim.
Ask them for a picture at that moment, with a [piece of] paper with your name on it
- Cristina Palumbo
“Some of the dangers of online dating have to do with not knowing if you’re actually connecting with the person you actually think you’re connecting with.” relationship expert Emma K. Viglucci told FOX411's In the Zone. “Online nowadays it’s very challenging to determine what’s true and what’s not true. So yes, you could check out the background on each person that you’re connecting with; their names, you could do 'People Look Up' or some other services out there to look up somebody to know a little bit more. But also following their history online, kind of what they’re doing, who they’re talking with."
But SiriusXM radio personality Cristina Palumbo says anyone can be a victim in a cyber love prank.
“I think the dangers of online dating are that there are people out there that are better at it than you are," she said. "There’s a younger generation out there that grew up with this sort of thing and it became second nature to them [like] creating a fake profile or creating a lot of profiles under your own name. It comes as second nature."
Ultimately, they say the best advice is to use a combination of head and heart.
“The main thing that I would suggest is to use your gut feeling because a lot of times we know if something doesn’t feel right,” advised Viglucci.
Meanwhile, Palumbo suggested a more tangible, proactive approach.
“My advice to you if you want to online date is to do your research. We have so many things available to us. All you have to do is extensively search through Google, see if who you’re talking to is real, ask them for a picture at that moment, with a [piece of] paper with your name on it, so you can be clear who you are talking to.”
Diana Falzone is a FoxNews.com contributor and the advice columnist for My Wingman Diana on Military.com. Her work has been published in the textbook "Sexuality Education," distributed in universities across North America. You can follow her on Twitter @dianafalzone.