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Online dating is a great way to meet new people.

It’s convenient, offers a wide choice of potential suitors and is also a great way to communicate when developing a relationship. And it often leads to a long-lasting or even lifelong partnership. But, of course, the relationship may fizzle out for a number of reasons … that’s life. But if those reasons are sinister, that’s very different.

We’d like to help you protect yourself against some of these dangers, such as fraud, sexual exploitation and physical harm.

Before you next go online to find love, please take a few minutes to read our expert tips.

  • Pick a reputable dating service and don’t move the conversation away from the website or app’s messaging service until you’re confident the person is who they say they are, and that their motives are honourable.
  • Check that the person is genuine by putting their name, profile pictures or any repeatedly used phrases and the term ‘dating scam’, ‘romance scam’ or ‘catfish’ into your search engine. Do a reverse image search to see if the photo is actually of somebody else.
  • Never send money or your bank details to someone you’ve met online, no matter how convincing the reason they give for needing it, nor how long you’ve been speaking to them. Banks usually do their best to track and recover your payment, but aren’t responsible for your losses if the request is fraudulent.
  • Get to know the person, not the profile. Ask plenty of questions and don’t rush into anything. This may also help you avoid becoming a victim of a false relationship where you’re simply being used for sex.
  • Remember that some dating apps use your mobile device’s location services to enable matches, but this could also compromise your personal safety.
  • Don’t overshare personal details. Revealing your full name, date of birth, home address or workplace could lead to fraud, identity theft or even personal harm. Protect the names, details and locations of your children and family members.
  • Be wary if someone you meet online tells you not to mention them to your friends and family. Fraudsters and sexual predators work by isolating their victims.
  • Before meeting an online suitor in person for the first time, tell a friend or family member that you’re meeting, and where. Keep your mobile phone switched on, and think about arranging for someone to call you during the date to give you the opportunity to make an excuse and leave early.
  • If you become a victim of romance fraud, don’t be embarrassed but report it immediately to Action Fraud on www.actionfraud.police.uk or on 0300 123 2040 – as well as the dating site where you met the perpetrator. Report any assaults to the police.

DateSafe quick reference guide

Don’t rush into an online relationship – get to know the person, not the profile and ask plenty of questions.

Analyse their profile and check the person is genuine by putting their name, profile pictures or any repeatedly used phrases and the term ‘dating scam’ into your search engine.

Talk to your friends and family about your dating choices. Be wary of anyone who tells you not to tell others about them.

Evade scammers by never sending money to, or sharing your bank details with, someone you’ve met online, no matter what reason they give or how long you’ve been speaking to them.

Stay on the dating site messenger service until you’re confident the person is who they say they are. If you do decide to meet in person, make sure the first meeting is in a public place and let someone else know where you’re going to be.

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