Whether they're looking for a soul mate or a hookup, singles have more options than ever. Technology has long since made it possible for people to search for romance online, with people using websites as well as apps like Bumble, Tinder, and Hinge to find someone. But alongside the convenience of constant access to potential romantic matches, online dating also comes with risks. Violent predators, for example, may use online dating as a way to seek out victims. Others use it to represent themselves falsely in order to scam people who are looking for love or commit other crimes. Despite these concerns, most people use online dating for its intended purpose, and there are many who successfully find relationships. The key to staying safe is to acknowledge that these threats exist and heed valuable safety tips.
A number of warning signs may present themselves even before a first date is planned. Beware of profile pictures in which the photo looks suspiciously like a fashion model, a stock photo, or someone famous, as using false photos is a tactic frequently used to lure victims. Ask questions, and be aware that often, individuals with criminal intent will falsely claim to be from the United States when they are actually working or stationed overseas. People who profess love too quickly and before having physically met are also a likely source of concern, and caution should be exercised. People may use online dating as a way to target and scam unsuspecting daters into sending them money or even unwittingly committing a crime, so it's important to avoid anyone who asks for money for any purpose.
The Internet is a fountain of information, making it simpler than it used to be to learn about someone before you meet them. A Google search can be used to perform a cursory background check. Entering a person's name or profile picture can provide valuable information, such as confirming if a profile picture belongs to the person using it or if a person is actually married. A search can also reveal information such as negative online behavior and comments that may impact whether they are a desirable dating candidate. A full background check is also an option that will rule out or reveal any serious concerns.
Even if people feel they are connecting online, they should refrain from providing identifiable details such as their last name until they've met one another in person. Obtaining a temporary or alternate phone number is also advised to avoid sharing one's phone number too soon. Home addresses and a person's place of employment should also be withheld to reduce the risk of unwanted visits and stalking. Additionally, refrain from giving out details about daily routines.
The first date with a relative stranger should not take place in an intimate setting; when meeting for the first time, make plans to meet in a busy, public place. Restaurants, coffee shops, or even sporting events are common and highly visible locations to meet. In addition to being public, the meeting spot should be one that is familiar and comfortable, and first encounters should be planned to last no longer than an hour.
There are several reasons why a person should have their own transportation when going on a date with someone they met online. For one, driving means that someone can end the date and leave if they feel they are at risk or are uncomfortable. It also allows a person to keep their home address private. When driving to a date, park in a location that is well-lit and in a busy section of the parking lot.
Don't keep online dating a secret: Before going on a date, share details such as the name of the person and where and when the date will be with a friend. Set a specific time to check in by phone during the date to let the contact know that everything is alright. If an escape from the situation is needed, have the person call you back in a few minutes with a fake emergency that requires you to leave.
Staying sober is the best way to get to know someone and accurately judge their character. Avoiding or minimizing the amount of alcohol consumed will help ensure that one is alert and aware and that good judgment is being used during the date. Keeping a watchful eye on any drink is also an important precaution to take, as it can help reduce the risk of being drugged and taken advantage of.