Let’s face it, dating isn’t what it used to be. Maybe dating hasn’t changed much, but the way we meet people certainly has. Online dating is quite popular and can be very instrumental in finding that special someone who makes you wonder how you ever managed without their presence in your life. But all the different apps and websites that help you crack the dating code can put you at risk for identity theft, harassment, and other unwanted outcomes.
When you’re new to the online dating scene, it may seem a little nerve-wracking or overwhelming at first, but there are a few things that you can do to keep yourself safe while you enjoy meeting new people. Keeping these tips in mind can save you a lot of headache in the future and help prepare your meeting in person if you should choose to.
1) Choose Your Dating Apps and Sites Wisely
Try not to choose a dating service that allows anyone/everyone to message you so there won’t be a messaging free for all (and you’ll receive less offensive, inappropriate or scammy interactions). What you want is to express interest in someone and for them to express interest in you before messaging can occur.
Make sure that your location and privacy are respected. Some apps and sites will use your location to help pair you with nearby singles, but you don’t want complete strangers to be able to find your neighborhood or your specific location. Know exactly what information is being shared and if your privacy is in jeopardy, find yourself another site or app.
2) Make Use of a Few Buffers
If you decide to take your online dating into the real world, having a phone number just for dating can offer you an extra layer of protection. Create a Google Voice phone number dedicated to your dating activities to keep people from having your true phone number. And always use the messaging system within the app or site. This gives you an additional layer between you and potential dates.
3) Limit the Information You Put in Your Profile
Just like you wouldn’t walk around town with your full name, date of birth and social security number written on your jacket, this dating site recommends that you don’t want to share too much information about yourself online. Don’t use your last name, social media account links or contact information to help safeguard you against identity theft and stalkers.
Take a close look at your profile and ask yourself, “Can this be used to steal my identity?” “Can any of my photos be reverse searched?” In case you’re wondering about reverse searching, it’s a thing. A reverse image search allows someone to search an image on the Internet. If any of your photos are on your social media pages, it will link to them. So, don’t use a photo you’ve used on social media.
4) Choose a Very Public Place to Meet
When you decide to meet someone in person do not meet at your home or at a secluded place. A restaurant, cafe, skating rink or other populated place are great choices. And if alcohol is involved, limit how much you drink and never let it out of your sight.
Always let a close friend or relative know where you are going and who you are going to meet. Have them call or text you during your meetup to check in on you. And arrange your own transportation. No ride sharing with your date.
5) Carry a Self-Defense Tool
Have a can of mace or pepper spray on your keychain or maybe a telescoping baton, something that you can safely and legally carry to defend yourself from an attacker. Of course, you hope that you will never need to use it, but it’s better to be prepared in case something goes wrong. If carrying a knife or a taser doesn’t sit well with you, enroll yourself in a self-defense class and take it seriously. These types of classes can offer you invaluable life saving and preservation techniques.
6) Bad Date? Make an Excuse and Leave
Trust your instincts. If at any point during your date you feel uncomfortable or you’re just not feeling it for whatever reason, feel free to get up and leave. You’re not under any obligation to continue a date because you don’t want to be rude. If going with your inner voice means that you are exhibiting poor manners, that’s okay. It is always in all ways better to be safe than sorry.
7) Put Your Spyglass On
Just because you’re careful, doesn’t mean that everyone is as savvy as you. Have no shame, do a search on whoever you’re interested in. See what you can turn up. Perhaps you can see some of the things they’re interested in or read their thoughts on a certain topic on their social media pages. You might find that you know some of their friends or that they’ve been lying about their age or relationship status.
Doing a precursory background search can inform whether or not you choose to pursue someone. Remember, your personal safety is key. And if that means you have to put in a little PI work, so be it. It’s also a good idea to Google yourself. You’ll be able to see what information there is about you and make any necessary changes.
A recent online dating dangers study, for example, found the following information:
- 66% of online daters have seen at least one fake dating profile online.
- 88% of online daters feel safer going on a date after they verify the dating profile.
- 43% of people do not trust the Online Dating Profile Name.
8) Report Suspicious and Inappropriate Behavior
If someone is harassing you on any dating app or site with spam, scams, inappropriate pictures, etc. do not hesitate to file a complaint with the company. Being silent allows the person to continue their behavior and mistreat other users as well.
9) No Late Night Dates
According to the Sexual Assault Response Services of Southern Maine, 24% of rapes and sexual assaults occur between midnight and 6 am. You don’t want to walk into a situation ripe for trouble. Plus, people are often emboldened by the absence of light. Late night dates often have a strong sexual undertone, and if this is not your intention, it may be best to avoid them.
10) Take Your Time
There’s no rush when it comes to online dating. The pace should be slow and easy. Early expression of strong feelings may be a set up for large requests (scams). Take your time and get to know one another so that you both are getting the companionship you deserve.
The world of online dating is totally navigable and can help you find the kind of connection you’re looking for. Following these few simple principles can decrease your risk of being victimized while browsing the world of online dating. Your personal safety and privacy are important, so date responsibly and don’t forget to have fun.