Online dating is a great way to meet new people and bring some wonderful people into your life, but remember that there are some less desirable people lurking online too.
Online dating has come a long way in the past 10 years or so. It was once considered ‘uncool’ to use dating sites, some even thought that people who used them were ‘desperate’. Many people who formed a relationship with someone online even lied about how they met!
But with our lives increasingly becoming more and more connected online through the introduction of social media and smartphone apps, it is now completely socially acceptable to meet someone online and it is becoming more and more common. Studies from the US estimate that approximately one third of marriages started from some form of online dating.
So if everyone’s doing it, perhaps you should too! There are fantastic people online, just like you, who are looking to meet new people or form a serious relationship, just like you.
Most people are legitimately there for this purpose and are decent, genuine people. But you should always be aware that some people are online for less honest purposes.
So how do you avoid these undesirable people and stay safe whilst online dating?
1. Go With Your Gut
First impressions speak volumes when meeting someone and that goes for online too. If someone contacts you and something just doesn’t feel right about his or her profile, or the content of their conversation, or the way in which they chat to you, go with your gut. If it feels strange online, it could get even stranger when you actually meet in person.
If you feel at all suspicious that the person that you are talking to is perhaps not being truthful with their answers, or perhaps are hiding something from you, go with that gut feeling. Even if there isn’t anything untoward behind it, you can come across time wasters online. Be cautious until that person has proven that they are worthy of your attention.
2. Only Meet Up When You Feel Comfortable
There is no hard and fast rule about when the right time is to move offline and meet up in person. Some people like to chat online only briefly, but others take longer to feel like they want to meet.
The main thing to remember though is to meet up only when it feels right to you. Only you can decide that you know enough about someone to be interested in organising a date. Only you can decide that you believe someone is genuine and wants the same thing from the date as you do.
It can be quite common for men in particular to try to push to meet up very quickly. Men often claim to be not that interested in sending many messages back and forth, particularly those that are less ‘chatty’ in general. If you feel like you know enough about that person to meet up quickly, of course go ahead, but make sure that it is your choice.
It can be handy too to question the motive of why someone wishes to meet up quickly. This seems to happen more frequently on social dating apps like Tinder and if you are seeking a longer-term relationship from online dating, this may not be for the right reasons. Sometimes it could be that the person is just in town for a brief period and is looking to ‘hook-up’ for the evening, or they could even be married.
Know what you want from online dating and from the meet up and only arrange a date when you feel comfortable that you are both in it for the same reason and that you will be safe with that person.
3. Have your own Personal Security Detail on Standby
With a population of over 65 million people, there must be hundreds, if not thousands, of online dates happening across the UK every single day. Occasionally you hear a dating horror story on the news where someone has had a bad experience and been stalked or even attacked by someone they met online, but this is very rare.
Although the odds are in your favour that you will be fine, don’t rely on this to protect yourself. A great tip is to ask someone to be your own personal safety monitor. No, I’m not saying you should get a big burly bodyguard, just someone who you trust to look out for you.
When planning to meet up with someone, of course always organise to meet somewhere public where there are people around and you will be safe. Never ask someone you don’t know to your home. But also let your Security Detail person know where you will be meeting. Send them a quick txt with the details of when and where, and ideally also the details of who. It doesn’t hurt to send them the person’s name, mobile number and anything identifying that you may know about them such as their surname, where they live, what they do for work, even where they work if known.
When you leave the date, message that person just to check in to let them know that you safe….oh and also to tell them how the date went!!
4. Don’t Reveal Personal Information
Online dating sites have evolved to now include a lot of special features that help you to avoid revealing personal information online. Some sites like eHarmony have added features that let you have a phone call with a match without sharing your actual phone number as it’s done via their website.
Furthermore, with the chat and messaging functions of most sites working just like txt messaging and with most people using smartphones these days, it is easy to message your matches on the go, including when you arrive at the arranged place of your meet up to let them know you are there.
Overall, always remember that people that you meet online are strangers. Although it can feel like you get quite close to people you chat with online, never reveal personal information that you wouldn’t give a stranger. If you met someone at the bus stop, would you tell them your address? Your phone number? Your place of work? Unlikely, so avoid doing this online too.
5. Never Give Money or Financial Information Online
The NFIB reports that over £34 million has been lost by citizens in the UK through Dating & Romance scams, including online dating scams in 2014 (https://www.actionfraud.police.uk/news/new-figures-show-online-dating-fraud-is-up-by-33per-cent-last-year-feb15). This data shows a 33% increase in dating fraud cases compared to 2013, where citizens in the UK lost around £24.5 million to dating fraudsters online.
There are people that prey on lonely hearts online with the intention of scamming money from them. To protect yourself online, remember to never hand over your financial information to anyone. It is never necessary, no matter how nice and honest the person seems.
There are many cases reported online that see people being scammed out of money that they give to their matches to help them meet up in person, for example to buy an interstate or an overseas airfare. Another common scam is for a match to ask for money that they urgently need for medical attention. But unfortunately these people often take the money and run and are never seen or heard of again.
Again, give it the stranger test. Would you hand over thousands of pounds to someone you met at the bus stop? Probably not.
Remember it is fairly uncommon to run into trouble when online dating, but even less so when you take reasonable precautions to stay safe and secure.