How to stay safe when online dating
on 04 Feb, 2019
Over the past few years there’s been an explosion of online dating services. While dating sites and matching services have been around pretty much since the dawn of the internet, the appearance of smartphones – and more specifically, dating apps – has seen an incredible rise in the number of ways that people can meet and interact with prospective partners. In fact, it’s estimated that there are 7,500 dating apps and websites, and Tinder alone has 50 million active users.
However, while dating apps have become a haven for the perpetually-single, their introduction, and widespread use, has presented a number of safety concerns, prompting people to ask how you can stay safe whilst using these services. In order to shine a light on all the aspects of online dating safety, we’ve put together this brief guide, so you’ll know all the steps to take to ensure your safety if you fancy having a swipe.
Verify who you're talking to
As much as there are millions of well-meaning romantics out there, just looking for love, there’s also a good many bots, scammers, catfish, and ne’er-do-wells that can make life complicated. Estimates suggest that 10% of all dating profiles are false, so it’s vitally important that if you’re serious about talking to someone, you fact-check them to make sure that they’re legitimate.
For automated chat bots trying to send you dodgy links and malware it can be a relatively easy spot – most will have bare-bones profiles, ask vague questions (usually in broken English), and send you suspect links directly. However, there are some sophisticated AI daters that are harder to spot, as are catfish and scammers. The easiest way to verify someone you’re talking to on a dating app is to search for their social media presence. If they’ve got a profile with regular updates that seem legitimate, the chances are they are who they say they are. That isn’t to say that people without social media profiles are somehow dodgy or misleading, but it’s a quick and easy way to check if someone actually exists.
Alternatively, if you’re still suspicious you can run a reverse Google Image search on their profile picture and see if it’s been used anywhere before. It could show up as being on another person’s social media profile or even from something else entirely!
It doesn’t require you to be a super sleuth but feeling comfortable and knowing that who you’re talking to is actually who it’s supposed to be will definitely help your journey through online dating.
How to meet face-to-face
One of the most exciting moments of the online dating journey is when it comes to meeting someone fact-to-face for the first time, but that’s no reason to neglect your personal safety. As with verifying your date, there are still precautions you can take with meeting someone in real life to ensure that you’re protecting yourself. In general, there are a few simply rules to follow:
- Meet in public – It may seem obvious but inviting someone you don’t really know to your home address isn’t a great idea. If you’re planning to meet up, you should do it somewhere open and in public; there’s a reason bars and restaurants are so popular!
- Tell someone where you are/ where you’re going – Most people will tell their friends and family that they’re going on a date, that’s pretty natural. But if it’s a date with someone you’ve met online, be sure to tell them where you’re meeting and what time you’re expecting to be home. If the date is going well and you decide to move on to somewhere else, let someone know about the change of plans and update your ETA.
- Let someone at a bar/restaurant know you’re on a date with someone you’ve never met – It sounds like being overly-cautious, but if he person that walks in isn’t who/ what you’re expecting, the people best placed to intervene are those around you. By letting staff know your situation you’re subtly implying that they keep an eye on your date throughout the night.
The likelihood of ever needing help while on a date is very slim. A 2018 study suggests that only 0.8% of all dating app messages are considered ‘extreme deceptive’, so you’re unlikely to encounter someone you definitely were not expecting. However, by remembering these simple rules, you can ensure that if anything does happen, you’re protecting yourself.
Protecting yourself from fraud
In a similar vein to knowing who you’re speaking to, it’s important to protect yourself from chancers and fraudsters through online dating apps. A very easy way is to follow the verification steps outlined above, as the majority of fraudsters will use fake profiles in order to attract victims. However, there are other simple ways to ensure that you’re not a victim of fraud.
Primary among these is to never give away personal bank information to someone you’re speaking to online, regardless of how well you think you know them. In the same way that you would reveal your PIN to someone you barely know, you shouldn’t consider sharing bank information with someone online. Even if you like the person you’re speaking to, and they’re trying to convince you that they need your help, refrain from sharing details.
In fact, it’s a good idea to reduce the amount of personal information you share before having several dates with someone; don’t give away your address, your social media passwords, your family details – anything that could potentially be used to defraud you. This doesn’t mean you can’t share information and be open – just be wary of how open you’re being.
Check your privacy settings
A fairly simple way of staying safe online while using dating services is to make sure your privacy settings are set up to suit you. Most dating apps will have adjustable settings for privacy, so you can have more control about how your data is being used. It’s also beneficial to check the privacy settings on your social media channels, making it so that verified friends/ friends-of-friends can contact you or view your profile. Not only does this reduce the number of unsolicited messages you may receive, it also means that people cannot access your data for nefarious means.
Trust your instincts
Above all else, it’s important to trust your own instincts when talking to someone online. If something just doesn’t feel right – if it seems too good to be true – perhaps you should nip it in the bud before anyone gets hurt.
Hopefully, by following this guide and using your own natural instincts, you’ll be able to avoid some of the less savoury aspects online dating services and take full advantage of all the benefits they offer.
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