If you’ve dipped your toe in the high-tech waters of online dating, you’re certainly not alone. Use of online dating sites and mobile apps by young adults has tripled since 2013, and 15% of all American adults (roughly 49 million people) say that they’ve surfed the Web looking for love.
While online dating may make it easier for many to find their soul mate, it can also make it easier for attackers and scammers to find their next victim. So how can you avoid the creeps while dating online? We’ve got a few ideas.
Many experts agree that the pictures you include on your online dating profile should be 100% different from the images you use on other social media profiles. If you’re using the same pictures across the Web, it’s super-easy for strangers from your dating site to save your pictures, run a Google Image Search and voila — gain tons of identifying info about you. Our advice? Take a quick set of selfies to be used only on your dating profile and nowhere else. That way, if someone were to search your images, the only thing that would show up is your dating profile.
Everything you learned about Web scams definitely applies to your online dating adventures. Just as you wouldn’t trust a Nigerian prince in your email inbox peddling a “get-rich-quick” scheme, you shouldn’t trust that attractive person on the other end of your dating app — at least, not yet. Be especially cautious with anyone who:
This bit of advice goes hand-in-hand with tip #2. When you date online, you’re essentially advertising yourself to a global audience. That’s why it’s critical to make sure that your billboard has as little personal information as possible. Don’t list your home address, phone number or email on your profile. Listing the city you live in is acceptable, but narrowing things down to a specific neighborhood or street is dicey.
Never, ever go to a date’s house for a first meeting, and never allow them into your home. In fact, people you meet online shouldn’t even find out where you live until after the first few dates. A coffee shop, restaurant or any other place where there will be other people around is your safest bet. That way, if your date turns out to be a total psycho, you will at least have others around to offer help if you need it.
When you arrange your first meet-and-greet with an online potential, don’t stop at only telling a friend where you’re going. You need to share every bit of information you’ve managed to gather about the person you’re meeting. That way, if something were to go wrong, the police would have a solid foundation of facts to start from. “She was meeting a guy named Jake at the corner bar,” really isn’t all that helpful. But if the police are able to start their work with a name, photo from the dating profile, phone number and email address, they’ll have a better chance at making headway on your case.
There’s nothing wrong with having the means to protect yourself. No matter what you decide to carry, pepper spray or otherwise, make sure you are comfortable using it.
If you have to rely on the other person to get you home, you’ll be stuck with them if things turn sour. Having your own transportation ensures that you can make a getaway if you need to.
A drink can be a great ice breaker, but one too many can definitely impair your senses and cause you to make a bad decision. Keep yourself nice and sober so that you’re able to think as clearly as possible.
Keep our tips in mind, and meeting your online suitor in person could be the start of something beautiful.