With more than 44 million Americans using dating apps and websites to find love, it’s clear that online dating has found its footing in the relationship world. The idea of finding your Prince Charming with just a few clicks is thrilling and romantic but it also has its fair share of downsides.
If The Tinder Swindler and the hordes of online dating horrors in the news have taught us something, it’s that you can never be sure of a person’s intentions no matter how well you think you know them. According to the Better Business Bureau, there are 500,000 fake new dating profiles each month out of 3.5 million profiles.
These online dating safety tips can help you navigate the world of online dating safely and help you avoid ill-intentioned people. While they aren’t guaranteed to help you find true love, they can remind you to be a little bit more objective and cautious.
Sharing private and work-life details can seem harmless. After all, that’s how we build intimacy and become closer to people. However, until you’re sure about someone, you may want to avoid mentioning specific details like your exact home and work address, bank information, and passwords.
Why? There are many cases of identity theft, fraud, and harassment. By sharing personal information, you’re putting yourself at risk for it.
Wait Until You’re Comfortable
The biggest milestone in any online relationship is going from the digital world to the real world by meeting a prospective partner in person. Before you get to this stage, however, you’ll meet a lot of people on the internet who you don’t get along with or who just seem questionable for one reason or another.
Use this “getting to know you” time wisely. If someone is rude to you, seems suspicious, or asks questions that seem inappropriate, cut them off immediately and never let them pressure you into meeting with them.
The right person won’t do these things because he or she cares about you or at least respects you enough to wait.
Video Chat Before You Meet
There are many people out there who aren’t who they claim to be. Scheduling a video chat can help you weed out people who aren’t serious or who have malicious intentions. A video chat will help you confirm that the person you’ve been corresponding with is indeed who they say they are — at least visually.
The next tip can help you further verify a person’s identity.
Conduct a Light Online Search
Everybody verifies almost everything online these days — why not potential online partners? You can look through Google, Facebook, Instagram, and other apps to see if the information they’ve given you matches up with their online presence.
You can learn more about them this way and see if there are any red flags. What if the person has no online profile anywhere? Well, that seems suspicious too and you may want to hold off on meeting them until there’s compelling evidence that it’s safe for you to meet.
Tell a Friend Where You’re Going
The big day has arrived. You’ve done your homework and are scheduled to meet up for the first time. Before leaving, tell a friend or a family member about your plans, including where and when you’re going to meet. If you can, give this person access to your location via your smartphone.
Should anything go wrong, he or she will know where to look for you. During the date, you can even take a photo of the person you’re meeting for extra security.
Always, always do this when meeting an online date for the first time no matter how much you think you can trust them.
Meet in a Public Place
Schedule your first date in places where there are plenty of people around. Some examples are coffee shops, restaurants, movie theaters, bars, etc.
If you decide to sleep with someone after meeting them, it’s best not to do it at home. Opt for a safe, neutral location like a hotel so you don’t have to worry about someone knowing where you live in case things go south.
Be in Control of Your Transportation
If the person you’re going on a date with volunteers to pick you up, don’t be lured by the idea of chivalry. Everybody (including psychopaths) seems nice — until they’re not. Remember the Ted Bundy case? Let’s rely on ourselves to get back home safely.
Be in control of your own transportation to and from the date even if it means taking a cab or the subway. If you feel uncomfortable, you can leave whenever you want without having to get into a vehicle with someone you don’t trust.
Most people choose to go to pizza joints and coffee shops on their first dates but if you decide to go to a bar instead, know your drinking limits and stick to them. Always keep an eye on your drink to make sure nobody slips anything in.
If you’re a lightweight, stay sober. Remember, you need to get yourself home safely and you can’t do that if you’re heavily intoxicated.
Have an Excuse Ready
Before leaving to meet up with someone, come up with an emergency phrase that you can text your friend if things go awry. This way, they can make up an emergency to get you out of an uncomfortable and potentially dangerous situation.
If you find yourself unable to send a text, ask the bartender or waiter to create a distraction so you can slip out quickly and safely.
Trust Your Gut
If you feel uncomfortable or unsafe during the date, go with your instincts and leave. If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. Don’t stick around out of politeness. Prioritize your safety and bow out.
Remember: you can always unmatch, unfriend, block, or report a match if you don’t feel safe around them. You’re in no way obligated to maintain communication with someone who makes you feel awkward or threatened.
Be Wise, Be Safe
Online dating safety tips may seem like the last thing you want to think about when searching for Mr. Right but they’re necessary. As more and more people turn to online dating, it has also attracted more criminals, scammers, and unsavory characters.
Trusting victims aren’t just at risk for identity theft and fraud but also robbery and kidnapping. It’s okay to look for your special someone online but be sure to do your due diligence, be wise, and be safe while doing it.
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When Keren is not actually tapping away at her keyboard, you’ll find her staring into space or drinking copious amounts of coffee. But make no mistake, she's hard at work even then. Come close enough and you’ll hear the whooshing noise of countless words as they go whizzing by - in her head of course.