Ashley Madison, a website that helps people arrange extramarital affairs, was recently hacked. The hackers are threatening to release all the nude pictures, credit card information, real names and addresses they managed to collect if the site does not shut down. 
 
This leads to the question, “Can we date online and still stay anonymous?” 
 
The answer? Yes.
 
There could be a multitude of reasons why you want to keep your identity secret. Perhaps you’re LGBT and in the closet. Perhaps you’re in a witness protection program. Maybe you’re a celebrity. Maybe you’re really concerned about your privacy or maybe just perhaps you are actually cheating (don't cheat). 
 
Whatever your reasoning, here are three ways help protect your identity while dating online.
 
First and foremost: If you’re going to send a nude picture, don’t include your face or anything that will give away your identity. This includes any jewelry, tattoos or birthmarks. 
 
You never know what the person on the other end of the chat will do with those pictures, and it’s best to safeguard yourself by not giving away too much of your identity while sending seductive pictures. 
 
Second: If you are super concerned about your digital footprints, get a dummy email address.
 
Set up a new email account with a made-up name and birthdate. 
 
Think of this email address as a drug dealer’s burner phone -- something you can throw away if you need to and won't leave a trail of breadcrumbs leading back to you. 
 
Use this email address to register with any site on which you would like to stay anonymous. If the website you’re on is compromised, you’ll be less likely to have your identity compromised as well. Instead of having the email address you use for your banking, work or personal social media, whoever stole the information will merely have a much less useful dummy email address. 
 
Third: Get an actual burner phone. 
 
This may sound extreme and like a whole lot of work.
 
It is. 
 
Truth be told, if you are super concerned about your privacy using an alternate number while dating will give you peace of mind as you give it out left and right to people you met online. 
 
You: "But Matt, I don’t want to get a new phone just for online dating!"
 
You don’t have to, friend.
 
Services like Skype or Google Voice can be great alternatives. Once you set up an account you’ll be able to text with prospective suitors from a computer, or an app on your phone. You can even make calls using your normal phone, but through your burner phone number.