- Personal safety when meeting someone in person who you met online.
- Stalking and harassment.
- Fraud, when people appeal appeal to your better nature to help them out of an ‘unfortunate situation’ by sending money.
- People masquerading as somebody who they are not.
- Spam, selling or fraud, especially romance fraud.
- Webcam blackmail, where fraudsters record things you may do in front of your webcam then use the recording to extort money.
- Phishing emails claiming to be from an online dating site and encouraging you to divulge personal information.
- Being defrauded by using websites posing as authentic dating sites.
- Potential theft of your money if you do not use a secure link when making payments.
- Using certain dishonest dating sites that:
- Set up ‘pseudo’ or fake profiles where the person you think you have met is actually employed by the site to keep you hanging on … and paying money
- Stop sending you contacts and messages as soon as you have paid the fee to receive them
Follow this advice to date safely online
You should check if the dating site you are using is a member of the Online Dating Association (ODA). Membership means that the site has to commit to an industry code of practice that includes honest communication with users, protecting their privacy and providing a mechanism for reporting abuse. Inclusion of the ODA’s logo on the site indicates membership.
Creating your online dating profile: protect your identity and personal information
- Choose a username that doesn’t let everyone know who you are. Don’t include your surname or any other identifying information such as your place of work either in your profile or when you first make contact.
- Remember that overtly sexual, provocative or controversial usernames could attract the wrong kind of attention.
- Keep contact details private. Stay in control when it comes to how and when you share information. Don’t include your contact information such as your email address, home address, or phone number in your profile or initial communications. Take things slowly and share more information when you feel comfortable doing so. It is impossible to get back information once you have given it away.
- Stop communicating with anyone who attempts to pressure you into providing your personal or financial information or who seems to be trying to trick you into providing it. If this happens contact the dating provider immediately to not only protect yourself but other users too.
Password & security
- Be careful when accessing your account from a public or shared computer so that others can’t view or record your password or personal information.
- Be wary of opening email attachments from someone you have only just met
- Ensure that you keep your internet security software up to date.
Connecting with new people online
Get to know people, take your time and trust your instincts. Act with caution and learn more about someone before contacting him or her outside of the dating site. Dating services run mail and chat so you can get to know people in a safer and [monitored/controlled] way. They do it to protect you, not to make money. Use their platform and the added security it gives. If and when you do decide to share an e-mail address think about creating a separate and anonymous email address.
Take your time
Sometimes when you’re excited about someone, your instincts can be confused by strong feelings. Take care and take your time when you talk about yourself. You don’t need to give out your life-story the first time you chat – and you shouldn’t. There will be plenty of time to share such details if your relationship develops.
Be responsible and do your own research
There is a limit to an online dating provider’s ability to check the backgrounds of users and verify the information they provide. They cannot do a criminal records check on every user. And a person can become a problem without having a record. Therefore, don’t get a false sense of security because you’re on a dating site; do your own research to learn more about someone and make informed decisions before you decide to meet. Check to see if the person you’re interested in is on other social networking sites like Facebook, do a web search to see if there are other records of the person online, and if possible use google image search to check the profile photos.
Money requests are your red light
Why would someone need to borrow money off somebody they have never met, or only just met? There is no reason for anyone to ask you for money or your financial information, whatever sad or sob story they give. Always keep your bank and account information private. Stop all contact immediately and report the matter to the dating site.
Report unacceptable or suspicious behaviour
Nobody should have to put up with offensive, insulting and threatening behaviour online any more than they should or would if talking to someone in a bar or café. Trust your instincts and immediately stop communicating with anyone who makes you feel uncomfortable or apprehensive. Never feel embarrassed to report a problem to the dating service. You are helping them and doing other users a favour.
Play it safe when you meet face-to-face
Be smart and stay safe. Going on a date with someone new is an exciting step in a relationship, but continue being careful. Even if you feel you have become closer to someone via email and phone, you should still remember that this person is largely a stranger to you. Therefore it is important that when meeting someone in person, whether it is your first or fifth date, you take precautions and consider these dos and don’ts.
1. Plan it. Say it. Do it.
It’s your date. Agree on what you both want from it before you meet up. Don’t feel pressured to meet before you’re ready or for any longer than you’re comfortable with – a short first date is fine.
2. Meet in public. Stay in public.
The safest plan is to meet somewhere public and stay somewhere public. . Make your own way there and back and don’t feel pressured to go home with your date. If you feel ready to move to a private environment, make sure your expectations match your date’s.
3. Get to know the person, not the profile.
The way people interact online isn’t always the same face-to-face. Don’t be offended if your date is more guarded when meeting in person. or if things don’t progress as fast face-to-face.
4. Not going well? Make your excuses and leave.
Don’t feel bad about cutting a date short if you’re not keen. You don’t owe the other person anything, no matter how long you’ve been chatting or what’s been suggested.
5. If you’re raped or sexually assaulted on your date, help is available.
No matter what the circumstances, sexual activity against your will is a crime. Police and charities are here to help and support you.
Spot a scam
Sadly, people aren’t what they seem. Dating sites, social networks and other internet services are targeted by scammers. Scammers want one thing and one thing only – money. Here are a few examples of common scammer behaviours to watch out for and report:
- Declarations of love – If someone you are in contact with starts declaring their love for you within a matter of weeks (or even days or hours), be cautious. You need to know someone to come to love them. Instant messages of love could be someone trying to get right into your life, possibly for all the wrong reasons. Use common sense and don’t be afraid to speak to a friend to get a second opinion.
- Requests for money – This really should send alarm bells ringing whatever the form the request comes in. Scammers will look to gain your sympathy with the stories they tell.
- Someone offering you money – Who gives money away to strangers through a dating site? These are always scams. The same goes for anyone with a sure-fire get rich quick schemes. The only one trying to get rich quick is the scammer as he or she fishes for your bank details or other financial information.
- Threats and blackmail – These are ugly words. But some scammers have tried to threaten money out of people for not showing pictures, webcam footage or messages that they have managed to get out of users online.
Advice for avoiding scammers
- Never ever respond to a request for money.
- Never give out bank account or other details.
- Beware of the sob story – someone telling you how much they want to visit you but need a loan to pay for the ticket/visas. Or stories about a desperately ill family member who needs help with medical expenses.
- The same goes for fantastic too good to be true business deal they are in on – if only they had some extra up-front money…..
- Watch out for those profiles that immediately tug on heart strings – supposed ex-serviceman or woman, or those who claim to be recently widowed to gain your trust and sympathy.
- Don’t let the passing of time cloud your judgment. These sorts of pitches may take time to come out in messages, time in which you may very well have come to trust and value a relationship with your online contact. That does not make them any less of a lie.
- Our same warning goes for pleas of urgency – about money needed at short notice. Someone asking you to use a wire service to get money to them is up to no good.
- Be wary of long distance and overseas relationships: They can happen but it is an unlikely way for a relationship to start offline so be wary online.
- Notice if a contact seems out of touch or out of kilter: people offering foreign numbers for contact, people who seem not to be aware of things happening in the UK – events, the weather etc, people who want or need to send messages at unusual hours.
- Be wary if someone seems vague in their communication about their interests, or may often repeat things or seem disconnected. They may dodge questions or make excuses for not meeting or speaking on the telephone. Their profile or communications may also have odd spelling and grammar.
- Do not share pictures or information about yourself or others that gives someone any sort of hold over you. Your private life should stay private until you know someone really well and can start over time to trust them with things.
- If you do find someone trying to menace money out of you – don’t. They’d just be back for more. Report them; however bad that might feel at the time. The Police have national and local teams there to attack fraudsters. Let them protect you – and others.
- Don’t be afraid to ask a friend – if you start to commit to a relationship online or in person it can be hard to stay objective. If a contact starts to feel strange and especially if money gets raised you might ask a friend or relative if you are not at a point where you think there is something to report to the dating service. If they advise you to back off … listen to them.
Reporting a concern or problem
Don’t assume scammers are illiterate foreigners you and others will see through in an instant. Scamming is a pretty sick line of business but it is a business for them. They practice tugging at heartstrings, at showing tenderness or a neediness. They tell people what they want to hear.
If you suspect that someone you’re talking to may be a scammer, stop your communications and immediately report him or her. You should never feel too stupid or ashamed to report someone. You are not the person who should be ashamed and stopped.
Tell the dating site – and talk to the professionals. All Online Dating Association (ODA) members have to have reporting arrangements to deal with users concerns about a bad experience or suspicious behaviour. Dating site providers want and need to know if there is a problem. They can act to get people off sites immediately to help safeguard you and others. Online dating providers need to know if someone is trying to get hold of your personal information, asking for money or behaving in really inappropriate ways. They monitor regulatory but need to be told if you can see a profile that has obscene, pornographic, abusive, violent or otherwise offensive photos or content. They will act to remove the content and the user.
Any act of violence or abuse should be reported to your local police. If you have been the victim of a sexual assault and do not want to contact the police, the ODA strongly recommends you contact a Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC).
If you have been the victim of actual or attempted fraud, report it to Action Fraud, the UK’s national fraud reporting centre by calling 0300 123 20 40 or by visiting www.actionfraud.police.uk. If you are in Scotland, contact Police Scotland on 101.
If you’ve experienced cybercrime, you can contact the charity Victim Support for free and confidential support and information.
This page has been compiled with the kind assistance of the Online Dating Association