Online dating is pretty much the standard today, and it makes sense with the technology driven world that we have at our fingertips. But with all the ease that our internet activity adds to our lives, people often don’t take into consideration online dating safety.
Technology breaks down barriers, and in the case of internet dating apps it breaks down our normal skepticism and comfort that comes with meeting people in person. It allows to connect and get to know people without actually getting to know them—and that illusion of connection can make online dating particularly dangerous.
Dangers of online dating
Online dating seems ideal for tech-savvy singles, you can contact potential partners from the comfort of your couch, within the safety and confines of your own home. But online dating isn’t that safe.
While many people online are normal, average individuals—people probably looking for something similar to what you are. But within that pool of eligible bachelors exist predators. And the problem with the online platform is that it’s incredibly hard to separate the bad from the good.
According to Internet Predator Statistics, over 16,000 abductions, 100 murders and thousands of rapes are committed by online offenders every year. While I can’t personally verify the validity of these statistics, I can tell you I know the threat is real. So it’s important to be safe.
The truth is, behind a computer screen we can be anyone that we want. Say anything we want. Do anything we want.
With that in mind, you need to take online dating safety seriously!
Internet dating tips
When it comes to online dating safety, it’s important to have a healthy skepticism about anyone you virtually meet. Beyond that, here are a few easy online dating tips to help keep you safe:
Stay on the app
The more time I spend online dating (which has been less and less as of late), the faster it appears people are itching to jump off the platform and into my iMessages. It’s rare that I get past ten messages without a thinly-veiled phone number ask pops out there—can I text you, I’m not always on the app it’ll be much easier or my app keeps freezing, here’s my number.
But apps have safety features that your phone doesn’t. And while apps are obviously first designed as businesses, they are designed with users safety in mind. They have reporting and block features that you as a user can turn to if you feel unsafe or uncomfortable.
If you take your conversation off the app there is no extra help, save for the police when the situation calls for it, if trouble comes around. And away from the app, with the right technical skills, someone could gain access to additional information that you don’t want them to have.
If you want to talk to someone via phone, either use the capabilities within the app (you can call other users on apps like Bumble) or set up a specific phone line via an online app.
Don’t give out personal information
While most dating websites now-a-days use a first name, it’s important to restrict the flow of additional information to remain at least somewhat anonymous.
By “personal information” I’m referring to:
- Your last name
- Your address (or other prominent identifiers of where your home is)
- Your social security or insurance number
- Your credit card or banking information
Or really any other identifying information. Saying “I’m a lawyer at Smith Walters LLP” can help someone easily access other information with a simple Google search: “Kate lawyer Smith Walters LLP Toronto” is likely to bring up your profile.
While this seems obvious, it’s incredibly easy to get caught up in the online romance. Therefore, it’s important to keep online dating safety top of mind when it comes to the information you share.
Use different photos for your profile photos
When it comes to setting up your online dating profile, don’t use your best Instagram or Facebook photos.
While they might look ah-mazing, they can also be image searched through Google. You simply throw one of those bad boys in the search engine, and voila online creeper #1 now has access to your Facebook or Instagram profile. So take a few different shots for your online profile.
Likewise, don’t connect your Facebook or Instagram accounts to your online dating app accounts. I know dating apps like Bumble and Tinder have the ability to connect your accounts to your dating profile, but avoid doing so. Leave those profiles for people who know you!
If it feels wrong, get out
If someone is making you uncomfortable, stop talking to them. Block them, report them if necessary and end the conversation for good.
If you’re getting uncomfortable or feeling vulnerable on an online setting, that’s a good indication that you need to end your conversation. Don’t go any further, no matter how cute they may be.
Tips for meeting someone from online in real life
Let’s say there haven’t been any red flags and so far it’s been going pretty good with that cutie from the dating app. That’s great, a ton of people now-a-days meet their partners on dating apps and go on to have good relationships.
But, there are certain dangers of meeting someone you met online. With that in mind, when it comes to meeting your potential prince (or princess) charming, here are a few online dating safety tips:
Choose a public place
It should go without saying, don’t have random people you’ve never met come to your house and don’t go to theirs. But internet dating safety goes a little bit further.
When it comes to choosing the place for your first date, go public. As public as you can get. Heavily populated parks, bars, cafes or restaurants. Avoid places where the two of you will be alone with no one for you to reach out with for help.
Tell someone where you’re going
Once you pick a place, tell someone where you’re going. Give them as much detailed information as you can, that includes making them aware of:
- The location of your date
- The date and time
- The name of your date, I recommend sending them a picture
When I’m meeting someone from online in real life, I tend to go a step further and take pictures of my dates profile and either sending them to my friend or family contact, or leaving them in an easy to find place.
Honestly, when I leave my house for a date, I typically leave a note on my computer with the date details and access information, and on the screen when you’ve logged in you’ll find all the information about said person I know. While it probably won’t help me if I go missing, it will at least make it hopefully a tad bit easier to find the creep!
Set a time limit
I al recommend setting up a time limit. Have someone call you or set an alarm on your phone and end the date at a pre-planned time. Tell your friend or family member what time your date is going to be over and check in with them within a half-hour of the end time.
Does this seem like over kill? Maybe. But we’re talking about your safety here. You might be having a grand ol’ time, and I hope you are. But that gives you a chance to set up a second date, and a chance to get home safe.
Get there on your own
Yes, I agree, it’s super cute when your date comes to your doorstep with flowers and picks you up for your first date—but when it comes to online dating, that’s a scene that should stay in a Hollywood rom-com.
Arrange your own transportation to the public venue of your choice. And don’t go home with them afterwards! Yes, it can be oh so tempting, but don’t do it. Nor should you let them walk you home. There’s no need to give out your address yet!
Don’t answer any personal questions you’re not comfortable with
Just because you’re meeting someone for the first time and they seem normal doesn’t mean you should be ready to give it all up. And by “all” I mean all of your personal information!
If they’re asking questions that you aren’t ready to answer—last name, workplace, bank account information (seriously, no one needs to ask for your bank account information)—you have every right not to answer.
A reasonable person will understand your hesitation, and an unreasonable person is the type you’re trying to avoid.
Online dating safety is incredibly important
Online dating safety is incredibly important, but even if you use safe dating practices there is still a risk. I get that it’s hard to meet people these days, and reality is, online dating is the cultural standard. So, since you’re going to be doing it anyway, just make sure you do it safely.
And if anything at any point of time makes you feel uncomfortable, walk away. You have every right to and your safety trumps their feelings any day.
Do you have any great online dating safety tips? Share them in the comments below!