Online dating has become the new normal in America and in many other countries around the world. There are around 44 million Americans currently using some form of online dating platform according to numbers on Statista, and that is projected to increase to more than 53 million by 2025.
At the same time, however, there are troubling statistics regarding the dangers of online dating, such as the fact that 1 in 10 sex offenders are using online dating services. On top of that, sexual assaults relating to online dating use have increased six fold in recent years, and as many as 1 in 10 users of free online dating platforms are scammers.
With this being the case, it’s more important than ever that people are informed about the potential pitfalls and risks that come with online dating. In today’s blog, we’ll try to outline all the most important aspects, which hopefully will become a useful guide to better online dating safety.
What Are Some Do’s and Don’ts for Online Dating?
Let’s kick off with a few simple do’s and don’ts that are some of the best rules of thumb to live by when diving into the deep and varied waters of online dating.
Do – Stay Open Minded
Despite the inherent risks and inevitable disappointments that will occur throughout your journey in the online dating world, you should never let anything shake your spirit or deter you in your ultimate goals. Remain open-minded, and try to think the best of people at all times, and don’t be too quick to judge connections before you have a chance to get to know them. Getting overly negative and pessimistic can work against you as you connect with new people.
Do – Provide Real Information and a Profile Picture
To connect with fellow authentic users, you should be sure to offer up a genuine profile picture, and ensure that what information is given is accurate and meaningful. For instance, don’t set yourself up as a millionaire entrepreneur if you’re actually someone who has just left a lucrative career to start a new business. The true story is always far more engaging to your ideal match. When being honest with your information, of course, one still has to be wary about being too open (see further below for more).
Do – Be Yourself
Just as your picture and profile information should be true to you, so should the way you communicate with connections on your chosen platform. Don’t create an online persona that differs wildly from your real self, because if and when the time comes to meet your contact in person, the deception will rapidly unravel itself, and likely greatly to your detriment.
Make your online interactions and the way in which you present yourself no different from how you would do it in person.
Don’t – Give Out Personal or Private Information
When it comes to online dating safety, the most important thing is to never give out any of your key personal or private details online. These include, but are not limited to, your real phone number(s), home or work address, company/workplace name, social security number, tax information, driving license details, bank account information, and more.
Don’t – Believe Everything You Read
A quick road to getting hurt in online dating is to take everything you see and read at face value. This includes other people’s profile pictures. On apps like Tinder, you can look for verification of people’s profile picture to be sure that they are who they say they are, but not all platforms have such a feature. Be wary of photoshopped images, and don’t be afraid to do a reverse image search if you’re suspicious.
Don’t – Send Money or Gifts Over the Internet
Finally, don’t ever be tempted to send any sum of money over the Internet, including gift cards or other presents. There are many scammers in the world of online dating, all of whom will try very hard to extract money from you, sometimes in tiny sums to begin with, but accumulating to life-changing sums over time. No genuine love connection will ask you for money, so treat it as the ultimate red flag. This brings us neatly to our next section.
What Are Some Red Flags When Online Dating?
Next, let’s say you connect with some seemingly great people online, how can you know if they’re genuine or not? How can you know if they’re to be trusted, or that this might really lead to something? An important step to take is to know the potential red flags of online dating:
They Come On Very Strong, Very Quickly
When you have a connection who uses very strong, flowery, or poetic love language very early on in your interactions online, it should be treated with suspicion. No, we are not total cynics, but it’s just that this behavior is typically linked either with online scammers, or with people with potentially difficult or otherwise unsuitable personalities when it comes to dating.
Even genuine users can come on too strong, especially if they’ve been looking for a partner for some time and are desperate to be with someone. In those cases, you can try to talk to them, and mention that they’re coming on too strong. If they dial it back and your conversation can proceed more steadily, then that’s fine, but if not, then you can move on.
They Ask for Money
Any requests for money — no matter the amount — should be instantly treated as a red flag, either for a scammer or for someone who is simply misusing the platform. The best course of action is to report the user, and then block them from viewing your profile and contacting you. This should be done in the first instance that they ask for money, without exception.
They Refuse to Share Photos
A refusal to share photos can be an interesting situation for some, but it’s still a red flag. You shouldn’t think that someone who doesn’t share photos is a scammer, far from it. They may simply be shy, or they may have strong feelings about their images appearing in public or on the net where they fear it will forever be searchable and visible to people everywhere.
Regardless, the reality of the situation is that if they feel this way about photos and are unwilling to share, especially when you have shared your own, then they’re either being unreasonable, or there is something unsavory about the interaction. Therefore, it might be best just to steer clear.
They Avoid All Chances to Meet in Public
There are some people who talk to their online dating contacts for months on end without any in-person meeting ever being arranged. If that is decided mutually, and you both wish to remain as online friends, then there’s nothing wrong here. However, if someone has been very forthright, and spoken at length of their desire to meet you, get to know you, and be with you, but with no results coming from that, then the situation is different.
They could be a scammer, of course, as persistent avoidance of in-person meetings for a huge number of reasons and excuses is a very common behavior pattern from scammers. They could also just be looking to get their jollies through online talk alone. Again, that can be a fun mutual arrangement when everyone’s in on it, but for those looking for genuine connection, it’s just a one-way road to a great deal of wasted time.
They Talk About Their Ex Constantly
When chatting with an online contact, do they just talk about their ex-girlfriend, boyfriend, husband, or wife? If they seem to bring up their ex at every opportunity, then it reveals a number of red flags, first and foremost that they’re absolutely not over their relationship with that ex. From a safety standpoint, it could also manifest in negative ways such as erratic behavior, emotional outbursts, or even violence that might just be directed toward you. Steer clear of anyone still obsessed with their ex.
They’re Very Negative in Their Talking Points
Following on from the previous point, speaking constantly about one’s ex is an example of a kind of negativity some people bring into new relationships, be they online or in-person. Speaking more generally, how is the demeanor of your new online dating connection? Do they appear to be positive, sunny, and hopeful? Or do they seem to shroud everything in a pall of negativity and cynicism?
Just as with those obsessed with their ex, a persistent focus on negatives indicates a possible anger problem, which can present all manner of safety issues when it comes to online dating.
They’re Vague or Cagey About Themselves
Finally, another thing to be wary of is people online who seem to be very good at deflecting questions and attention away from themselves and back onto you. When you ask something simple like where they are from, or where they grew up, for instance, how precise were they? An answer like “Midwest” is pretty vague, but not as vague as “somewhere too far away to care about,” or something similar.
Conversely, these same people might be very — even overly — curious about you and your life. The safest form of online dating interaction is one where both parties can communicate on more equal footing. When one person is giving up all the details and the other is being cagey, it creates a potentially worrying power dynamic.
What Is the Safest Online Dating Site?
All dating apps and dating sites come with their own risks, and no site is truly free from scammers or other unsavory individuals. One good rule of thumb, however, is to favor platforms where it’s necessary to pay in order to have any kind of meaningful interaction with other users. Scammers and predators tend most of all to hit free platforms, because they don’t wish to pay fees to connect with others. This makes platforms such as Match and eHarmony somewhat safer.
What Are Some Other Useful Safety Tips for Online Dating?
Use Unique Photos for Your Dating Profile
It’s quite common practice for people to pull photos from their social media profiles to use directly in online dating, but the trouble there is that other users could do a reverse image search and suddenly find themselves on your social media sites. That’s a bit close for comfort, so take new and exclusive photos for your dating profile that are not featured anywhere else online.
Try to Get a Look at Your Connection’s Social Media
While you don’t want to make it too easy for them to see your personal social media profiles, you could still try and find your new connection’s own social media if you want to try and know a bit more about them, or see alternative photos. It’s not necessarily ethical, and you might be seen as hypocritical if you’re hiding your own, but in those situations where others are open, why not take a look?
Don’t Be Afraid to Use the Block/Report Functions
Never be afraid to report or block other users that you suspect of behaving improperly or suspiciously. Interestingly, some fear some kind of repercussion for using such functions, but there really aren’t any except that you make that particular platform a bit safer for yourself by using them. When you’ve blocked or reported others, they won’t be able to see your profile, let alone contact you.
Take Care When Meeting in Person
Finally, take every precaution when arranging a first meeting with an online contact. Never have the meeting too early on in your relationship, and when the time comes you should choose somewhere open and public. A good example would be a prominent centrally located coffee shop or restaurant. Make your own way to the meeting rather than accepting a pickup at your home from your connection, since a pickup means giving your home address.