Once viewed as only for the antisocial or just plain weird, online dating is now becoming very much the norm. With our increasingly busy lives and ever shrinking social calendars, it can be difficult to get out there and meet new people, especially new people that you’ll have lots in common with.
This makes online dating very convenient and appealing for many, as it allows you to choose your preferences and find plenty of people that could be a potential match with just the touch of a button.
However, it’s still very important to be aware of the dangers of online dating. Online dating poses many of the regular dating threats, but also a few extra dangers that are unique to dating online. Even if you feel you’ve met the “one” online it’s essential that you still take steps of precaution in order to stay safe while you date. Online dating risks are real, but nothing that isn’t preventable.
To help you remain as safe as possible when you begin dating people from online, follow our 10 essential online dating safety tips down to a tee:
1. Have a Discreet Dating Profile
Your dating profile should include recent photographs of you and mention the town or county that you live in and list your interests, hobbies and what you’re looking for in a partner. Information beyond this however, should not be included. Virtually anyone can see your profile, so it’s very important that you don’t include too much personal information that could get into the wrong hands. For instance, don’t include your address, where you work, your full name, your email or phone number or any other contact information. This is an online dating safety tip that will protect your privacy. Your profile should give users a feel of who you are and what you’re looking for, but shouldn’t reveal so much that it could make you vulnerable to online predators.
2. See Each Other on Webcam Prior to Meeting
Most laptops (as well as many cell phones) now come with built in webcams, so there’s really no excuse why you shouldn’t see each other prior to meeting. There are unfortunately many people that create fake online profiles and photos, so it’s crucial that you check that the person is the real deal before you meet them in person. Arrange for a Skype or other instant message video chat in order to check they really are who they say they are. If this seems a bit extreme to you, just remember that it really is better to be safe than sorry when it comes to online dating. Unfortunately, there are many online dating scams. Safe dating sites can only guarantee so much protection.
3. Google Him or Her
Once you’ve chatted on the phone and on video chat you probably now know his or her full name. You can then Google him or her to verify that they really are the real deal. Moreover, you may also want to Google their username as there are some sites which name and shame scammers on dating sites, so you may want to double check their username as well. Of course don’t cyberstalk them, but do be prepared to conduct an online background check before you meet them in person. This online dating tip will prove that your potential date is legitimate.
4. Meet in a Public Place
This is classic advice, but you’d be amazed at how many online daters are still willing to invite strangers from online to their house or meet them at theirs on their first date. Always, always meet your date in a crowded public place for your first date, and ideally for the next couple of dates as well. This way if you are not happy with how the date is going or he or she isn’t who they initially said they are you can make a quick and easy escape. Try to pick somewhere that you know will be busy and where you will have easy access to your car if you do need to make a run for it!
5. Stay in a Public Place
Even if you feel like you’ve made an amazing and meaningful connection on your first date, don’t go back to his or her place or invite them back to yours on your first date. You may feel like you well and truly know them now that you’ve met in person, but this could still be far from the truth. Try to stick to public places on your first couple of dates and when you feel like you really know your date well enough to truly trust them, you can then be more open to inviting them to your place and vice versa. This tip for safe online dating also stands for any kind of date.
6. Be Wary of Scams
Online scammers don’t just appear in your junk e-mail box, they also target online dating websites and their users. If someone you are chatting to online begins to ask you for money, requests personal financial information (such as banking account details or your social security number) or offers to give you money – realize that this is most likely a scam. There are online dating scams present on many dating sites and these scam artists can be very manipulative and convincing. Don’t fall for their charms, they’re just an internet scammer and you should contact the site’s administrators straight away. In addition to this, if you meet anyone in real life that is also asking for money or access to your bank account details this could also be a scam, so tread with caution.
7. Tell a Friend
Let a friend know that you’re dating someone online and give them the details of where you’re going and meeting when you go on your dates. This way there will be someone that knows of your whereabouts just in case something does go wrong. The chances are your date will go smoothly and without a hitch, but it’s best to let people know where you’ll be to avoid making yourself extra vulnerable.
8. Stay Sober for the First Few Dates
For ultimate online dating safety, it’s important that you remain sober for the first few dates. This way you can have a clear mind and not have to worry about your mind being clouded by alcohol intake and risk doing or saying something you’ll later regret. If you decide to drink anyway, watch your drink and don’t leave it unattended as there is always the possibility of your drink getting spiked. Ideally stay sober for your first few dates, but if you must drink, drink sensibly.
9. Look Out for Red Flags
There are some obvious red flags on a first date to look out for such as if the person isn’t who they said they are or the picture on their profile was taken many years ago. However, there are more subtle red flags to look out for when dating someone from online and these can include:
• Avoiding Answering Questions Directly – If your date is unwilling to directly answer basic questions about their lives this could mean that they are trying to hide something or don’t want to reveal their real intentions toward you. Be wary if they are overly indirect and vague in response to your questions.
• Overly Touchy/Physical – Even if you feel like you really know the person from chatting to them online and video chat, you really don’t yet, so it’s important not to get too physical quickly. If your date is being overly affectionate on a first meeting and you’re not comfortable with it, treat this very much as a red flag.
• Is Inconsistent in What they Say – If your date keeps on changing or editing what they said about themselves, this could be a real warning. Keep a look out for any changes they make to statements about themselves such as if they initially lied about what town they live in or what kind of job they have. It’s important to be honest while dating and any inconsistencies could be a serious red flag.
10. Trust Your Instinct
If your instinct tells you that there’s something wrong or sketchy about your date, you’re probably right. It’s natural to feel a little nervous and even judgmental on a first date with someone you met online but if your instincts are telling you that this person isn’t for you or is even dangerous – then you should listen to this. Have a backup plan for cutting the date short if needs be and don’t be afraid to put it into use if you have to.
Successful, safe online dating is very much possible and achievable but it is imperative that you bear all of the above tips in mind when you begin to venture into the online dating world. Have fun but always be careful – good luck out there!