BY putting my trust in strangers I’ve encountered online, I’ve found love, made lifelong friends, travelled the world and ended up with a host of barely believable anecdotes to share down the pub.

My couch is currently listed on the internet as available to any traveller who needs a place to rest their head for the night.

I’ve played host to a Swedish death metal band, artists from Italy and London, an Israeli hitchhiker, a Canadian family spending maternity leave travelling the world with their baby and a German couple driving the length of the UK in their camper van.

I had performers Louis Barabbas and Richard Barry stage a gig in my packed front room and stay to do the washing up afterwards.

The internet has enriched my life in many a way but it hasn’t always been positive - alarming reports of increased crimes linked to dating sites did not surprise me in the slightest but left me thinking ‘there but for the grace of God go I.’

During a brief dalliance with online dating, I spent months fending off creeps, perverts and pushy men with no manners before meeting my partner of six years.

There are millions of well-adjusted people signed up to internet dating agencies but anyone will tell you that to get to them, you’re going to have to sift through disturbing profiles, depressingly regular unsolicited pictures of penises and inappropriate messages that would make anyone blush.

I was offered £50 a week to kick a man in the testicles, was sent a four-page typewritten letter listing all the ways in which I was not a suitable partner, told I should repent for my sins and convert to Christianity and received a host of obscene messages.

I was practically stalked by a man who sent 70 messages a day and called constantly.

I was insulted, groped and left feeling threatened and intimidated in ways that will be familiar to many.

Crimes linked to dating sites are escalating, with the North-East’s police forces having investigated reports of rapes, sexual assaults, blackmail and grooming in recent years.

It’s chilling to think that predators, perverts and criminals are exploiting dating sites and I’m glad to hear of police taking the issue seriously, of sensible advice being issued.

But, as is so frequently the case, the advice is going in one direction – tips to keep ourselves safe online are useful but I’d like to see them accompanied by tips for those who behave outrageously while hiding behind a keyboard, those who think they’re entitled to attention and those who will – often unwittingly – become criminals to get what they want.

Meeting up with online friends is an increasingly normal thing to do and sobering statistics will not discourage that. But we need to establish and insist upon some societal standards for our brave new digital world.

They’d do little to deter predators intent on targeting the dating demographic but the effort could help the rest of us to consider our conduct.

The majority of us manage to navigate our way around the internet without offence but the relative anonymity of the online world encourages behaviour that would not cut it in the real world.

I look forward to the authorities sending out advice that begins with ‘If you wouldn’t wave your genitals at strangers in the street, don’t do it online’.