How to Stay Safe When Dating Online

Online dating is more common than ever. In fact, 30% of American adults say they’ve used a dating site or app. 

However, they can be risky, and not just emotionally. Cyber-criminals use dating sites, too. You can reveal a lot of personal information on dating sites and the only defense is awareness. 

If you’re new to online dating or just want to up your online dating safety game, here are some online dating safety tips everyone should know. 

Avoid specifics in your dating profile 

You may be tempted to be as open as possible on your dating profile. After all, you want people to get to know you. But cyber-criminals can learn a lot about you with very little information. 

  • First, Google yourself: See what information is out there when you look up your full name. Don’t hand that information over to a stranger. 
  • Don’t give your full name: Wait until the first date.
  • Don’t list your email address or phone number: Use the messenger option in the online dating app until you meet in person and feel safe. 
  • Don’t name your employer: This can make it easier for people to pretend to be you, find personal information, or – worst case scenario – find you in person. Wait to reveal this information in person. 
  • Use new, different photos: Cyber-criminals can run your photos through Google’s “reverse image search” tool and find your Facebook, or other social media accounts. 

Be suspicious

Remember, meeting someone you met online is like meeting a stranger on the street. 

Protect yourself by conducting simple background research on a prospective date. Here are a few things you should watch out for when scouting out disingenuous dates: 

  • Low friend counts: Do they have few friends on social media? Does their profile look barren? It may be fake. 
  • Funky photos: Keep an eye out for a lack of photos, out of date pictures, or photos that look too professional.
  • Duplicate profiles: Cyber-criminals use other people’s photos to “catfish,” or pretend to be someone else online. Use Google’s “search by image” feature to search for the same images on multiple social profiles. 

Reject requests for money or personal information 

If a new online friend asks for money, gift cards, cash, or anything else of value, report it to the dating site immediately and block them. And definitely do not provide your Social Security number, credit card information, or details about your banking accounts. 

Don’t give out your address, phone number, or more photos right away either. To play it safe, wait until you’ve actually met someone in person before providing fixed methods of contact like your phone number or physical address. 

Keep it clean 

Remember than anything you say to a new online friend could be revealed to the public at large. You don’t really know who’s behind the screen, after all. 

Would you be comfortable with your family or community reading your texts, or seeing your profile? Think twice before you hit “send” on your messages. 

Stay safe when you meet in person

After you’ve gotten to know your new acquaintance, consider suggesting an in-person meeting. You can stay safe on your first date with these tips: 

  • Set up a pre-date video chat: This can help you learn a little more about them, and make sure they are who they say they are. 
  • Meet in a public place: Make sure you won’t be isolated and can make a safe escape if needed.
  • Get yourself to and from the date: Don’t share your home address until you have gotten to know them in person. 
  • Share your whereabouts: Tell a friend or family member who you’re meeting, where you will be, and when they should expect you to return. 
  • Keep your cell phone fully charged and with you at all times: That way, you can call for help if needed. 

Trust your gut

If something just doesn’t seem right, online or in person, just shut it down. Disconnect your chat, delete your profile, or leave the date. Don’t worry about being rude, just worry about your safety. 

Make sure you can delete your profile 

You don’t want to leave a revealing dating profile on the internet forever. Logging off isn’t enough. Review your preferred dating site’s instructions to permanently delete your profile. 

Enjoy yourself 

Dating is all about finding and getting to know new people. Don’t be afraid to get out there and have a good time. You’ll have a more enjoyable dating experience if you’re protecting your personal information. 

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