Most people on a dating site are just like you. They’re there to find love or to hook up with someone new.
However, the world can be a dangerous place, and that applies to online dating too if you’re not careful.
Scary stories about people experiencing dangerous situations or getting scammed by someone while dating online are rare, but they do happen.
So, it’s in your best interest to learn how to stay safe while dating online.
Just like you would take precautions to stay safe in real life, you need to make sure that you’re safe in the online world as well. And if you follow all the tips that you’re about to read, you aren’t likely to have a negative experience while dating online, at least when it comes to scams and dangerous people or fake profiles.
You might still end up on a bad date with a person who’s definitely not right for you. However, let this be the worst possible outcome of dating online.
Dating sites can protect you to a certain extent, especially if you report suspicious profiles and bad behavior. However, you are the one who decides whether you’ll go on a date with someone, and the dating site hasn’t researched your dates.
So, while you shouldn’t be afraid of dating online, you should be cautious and notice the red flags as soon as possible. Don’t let anyone take advantage of you while you’re searching for a new partner.
Here’s how to stay safe while dating online:
1. Use a trustworthy dating app or website.
There are more than 2500 online dating services in the US alone. Not all of these are reputable dating sites, so choose wisely.
Your best bet is to create a profile on some of the well-known dating sites such as eHarmony, Tinder, OkCupid, Bumble, and Match.com. Reputable websites are more likely to protect your private information and help you stay safe online.
It’s also thought that you’ll be safer on websites and apps which force you to pay for membership to join. This could be because we assume that scammers and other dangerous people aren’t likely to join a dating site they have to pay for.
So, take some time to decide where you’re going to create your dating profile. Don’t forget to also delete your profile once you’re done using the dating service.
2. Don’t use your social media photos.
If you do a Google image search on a picture, you are going to see other places where the same picture has been published. This means that, if you use the same picture that you’ve used on your social media, it will be very easy for anyone to find out who you are.
So, when choosing the pictures for your dating profile, choose only the ones that you haven’t posted anywhere else. Alternatively, you could take new pictures specifically for dating online.
While you shouldn’t hide your face in a picture, people online shouldn’t be able to figure out your personal information from your photo. And if you choose your social media photo, they will be able to.
Also, keep in mind that, on some free websites and apps, your photos will be visible to everyone, regardless of whether they have a profile.
3. Don’t link to your social media.
Your social media contains a lot of personal information that scammers or hackers can use to their advantage. So, make sure to keep your dating profile and your social media separate.
Don’t link to your social media in your profile description. When you get to know someone better, you can connect with them on social media if you like. However, this information shouldn’t be available to anyone who looks at your profile.
Some people link their Instagram accounts in their profile descriptions. While this makes it easier for potential matches to contact them, it also makes it easier for scammers and hackers to get their personal information. So, it’s best not to do this.
4. Don’t share your personally identifiable information.
Your personal and private information should stay private. Don’t use your full name, or even your real name as your username. And only reveal your first name when messaging someone, not your last name too.
Don’t reveal any information about your location either, whether it’s where you hang out, where you work, or where you live. And you should never give anyone your phone number to begin with—wait until you want to meet them in person and make sure that you can trust them.
Think of the other information that could identify you. Your birthday, the name of the company you work for, the name of your dog, and the street that you grew up on, don’t belong in your profile description. You should also be cautious about sharing this type of information in messages.
Keep in mind that anything that you write in your profile description might be public. So, anyone can see and even use the information that they find there. Your profile should be about your passions, interests, and who you’re looking for, not about things that could identify you.
5. Research potential matches.
What can you learn from the person’s profile? If there’s no information and only one picture, it’s likely a fake profile. Be cautious about connecting with someone that you know nothing about. Go beyond their dating profile to find out more about them.
If you know their name because you’ve been messaging for a while, look them up on social media.
You can also do a Google Image search on their photo. It might turn up nothing at all if they are also following tip #2 on this list, but it might give you something to go on.
And if they are using a generic photo of an attractive person because they are a scammer using a fake profile, you should be able to tell because there will be multiple other instances of that photo somewhere on the internet that indicate it’s not a real person.
6. Know that not everyone is who they say they are.
Some people lie on dating sites. They can pretend to be someone they’re not, post edited pictures that don’t even resemble them, or exaggerate their positive qualities.
Most of the time, this is what’s dangerous about the online dating world. Fortunately, there are not a lot of people who want to intentionally hurt you. However, some of them might lie to you for various reasons.
They could lie about their intentions just to sleep with you or about being better than they are to get you to like them. Unfortunately, dating sites can’t do much to protect you from this. You will have to take time to get to know someone before deciding whether they’re right for you.
For your own safety, don’t assume you are compatible until you’ve gotten to know the person in real life too, not just online.
7. Report and block suspicious accounts.
If you see a suspicious profile or someone acts inappropriately toward you, block and report their profile. Some scammers will tell you stories to get you to like and trust them. They might suddenly ask you for money because of a personal crisis.
They may also delete their profile and appear under a new name. Be cautious of anyone who pressures you to give them your phone number or go outside of the site or app to talk.
You should also watch out for anyone who requests your address, even if their excuse is wanting to send you gifts or flowers. Approach anyone whose stories are inconsistent with caution.
Report anyone who requests money, tries to sell you something, requests photos, sends offensive or harassing messages, or attempts to intimidate or threaten you in some way.
Of course, you should also report profiles that seem fake. When a person looks too good to be true, they probably are. Most fake profiles will have pictures of above-average attractive people, usually just one, with little to no information about them.
8. Don’t send money.
Don’t ever send anyone money if you don’t know them. Scammers can be incredibly charming and tell you very believable stories. However, there is no valid reason why a person dating online would ask you for money unless they’re trying to scam you.
Even if a person has a crisis, they will usually have someone to turn to other than the person that they haven’t even met in real life. So, don’t believe the stories that end with a request for financial assistance.
If you meet this person in real life and their story checks out, they’re probably not a scammer. However, still be cautious of anyone who requests money from you in the early stages of dating, whether it’s online or in real life. People don’t normally do this, and even if someone is not a scammer, they could take advantage of you.
9. Don’t rush to go outside the dating app/site.
Scammers want you to go outside the dating app or site because then their behavior won’t be so easily monitored. So, as already mentioned, be cautious of anyone who pressures you to communicate somewhere else.
Yes, regular matches could ask for this too. A person who likes you will want to learn more about you by connecting on social media. It’s also normal to ask for the number of the person you like, though not straight away.
However, a regular person will let it go if you reject it. They will continue to communicate with you on the dating site until you’re ready to move the conversation somewhere else or even meet in person. They won’t pressure you in the same way a scammer will.
10. Wait until you’re comfortable seeing them in person.
Don’t feel pressured to meet in person with anyone either, even if they’re definitely not a scammer. Some people will even write in their profile description that they want to meet right away and “don’t need a pen pal.” Don’t let this pressure you into meeting them until you’re ready.
While it’s important to meet your potential matches in real life, wait until you’re comfortable doing this, and don’t let anyone intimidate you. The right person would wait for you to be okay with meeting in real life instead of pressuring you to meet as soon as possible.
11. Have a video call before the date.
An easy way to make sure that someone is who they say they are, and to eliminate any fake profiles, is to have a video call before the date. Since people often don’t look like their photos, this is also a great way to see how your date actually looks before going out with them.
Your date might be camera-shy, but they shouldn’t object too much to a short video call just to see each other before the date. If they do, it might be a warning sign.
12. Be on the same page before the date.
Do you have the same expectations? Are you looking for the same thing? Make sure to be on the same page before the date. Don’t go on a date with someone before learning enough about them and their intentions.
Talk about what you’re looking for while you’re on the dating site. You don’t want to end up on a date where the other person expects you to sleep with them just because you haven’t clearly discussed your goals and intentions.
13. Tell someone where you’ll be.
Always tell a family member or a close friend about where you’ll be going when you’re going on a date with someone you met online. You can even give them permission to locate your phone in case you don’t come back at a certain time.
This is a safety measure that works well even if your date is a great person. They don’t have to be dangerous for you—or possibly both of you—to be in danger during the date, or on the way to/from the date.
So, tell someone about your date even if you’re sure that the person is not dangerous. Keep in mind that they don’t have to be literally dangerous to act inappropriately and make you feel uncomfortable.
Telling someone about where you are is also good if your date makes you feel unsafe without actually intending to cause you harm.
14. Have the date in a public place.
Don’t see someone you met online in your apartment, their apartment, or your office when you’re meeting them for the first time. Choose a public place where there are lots of other people around, such as bars, restaurants, coffee shops, or movie theaters.
It’s also recommended that you stay in a public place the entire time. Going back to your place or their place is inadvisable when you’re on a first date with a stranger. Even if you’re both just looking for casual sex, wait to get to know each other better before getting involved.
15. Leave the date if you’re uncomfortable.
When someone makes you feel threatened, awkward, or uncomfortable, don’t hesitate to leave the date. You can always walk away, and you don’t owe them an explanation.
Even if they’re not dangerous, if they’re not right for you, you’re not obliged to stay on the date purely out of politeness. You can use an excuse to leave the date.
There are a couple of choices here. Firstly, you can make up a reason why you have to leave immediately.
You could look at your phone and tell them that your friend is having a crisis. You could use something else, like forgetting to feed your cat.
The truth is, most people are aware that these excuses are fake because people have been using them for ages to get out of bad dates. Don’t let this stop you from using them. After all, it doesn’t matter what exactly you say, if you want to get out of there, the important thing is to go.
Not everyone will feel comfortable effectively lying to their date, and that is ok. There is another way. You can wrap up a date by saying something such as “It was nice to meet you, but I don’t think we’re well suited to one another.” Do this just after finishing a drink or at some other opportune time and it will not seem overly rude.
16. Ask the waiter for help.
If you feel uncomfortable, you could also turn to someone who’s present for help. Ask the waiter for help in getting a safe ride home, creating a distraction, or even calling the police if necessary. The important thing is that you tell someone about it if you feel in danger.
Asking the waiter for help is pretty easy to do without your date noticing. You could tell your date that you want to order a drink. Then head to the bar and, while making sure that your date doesn’t hear, ask the waiter to help you.
17. Have your own transportation.
Don’t get into cars with strangers. Make sure that you have your own transportation to and from the date so that you don’t have to rely on your date to drive you somewhere. This will keep you safe and allow you to freely leave the date if you feel uncomfortable. So, if your date asks to pick you up or drive you home, reject their offer, even if you like them.
You should also make sure that your phone is fully charged before the date. This will help keep you safe in many ways, and it will ensure that you can call a cab instead of relying on your date for transportation.
18. Stay sober.
You can drink alcohol, but getting drunk on the first date is a bad idea, both for safety and other reasons. So, stay sober and don’t feel pressured to drink alcohol just because your date drinks it. Have a few drinks if you want, but know your limit and avoid getting drunk.
Naturally, you also shouldn’t do drugs on the first date with someone you don’t know. They’re especially dangerous when you’re with a stranger since they can change your perception of reality.
19. Trust your gut.
Don’t stress about being rude to someone. If you ever feel unsafe, trust your gut and block the person or leave the date. When someone makes you feel uncomfortable, don’t wait to find out whether they’re dangerous or not.
A person who makes you feel unsafe or uncomfortable isn’t right for you anyway, even if they have no bad intentions. You’re dating online to find the right person, so don’t feel bad about eliminating those who aren’t.
Using the report feature helps the dating site keep you and the other users safe. So, don’t hesitate to use this safety measure whenever there’s cause for it.
Overall, dating online is pretty safe, especially if you use precaution. However, don’t assume that it’s any safer than dating strangers in real life. They’re still strangers, and you shouldn’t trust them too much until they stop being just strangers. For that to happen, you will need to spend time with them in the real world and get to know them better.
Don’t rush to get involved with someone even if you’re not looking for anything serious. Stay safe by getting to know the people that you’re dating before you begin to really trust them.
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- 18 Important First Date Tips After Meeting Someone Online
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- How To Date Online Successfully: 30 No Bullsh*t Tips!