10 safety tips for online dating

Embarking on online dating? Here are 10 tips to help you stay safe while looking for love.

These days, online dating has a normal way of getting to know somebody new. More people are turning to online dating, and many couples who met online have gone on to have successful, happy relationships – even getting married and starting families. 

There’s no denying the benefits of online dating. It’s convenient for people who work long hours, single parents, and introverts – you can meet somebody new without leaving the house. And, there’s a bigger chance that the right person for you is going to be signed up to a dating app or website compared to being in the same bar as you at the same time on a Saturday night. 

Trethowans
Trethowans

But even though online dating has been a godsend for many, there are still plenty of risks associated with talking to and eventually even meeting up with strangers that you meet online.

Not everybody that you meet on an online dating site or app is going to be as charming and as friendly as they appear to be. And when you’re talking to somebody using instant messaging rather than face to face, it’s difficult – if not impossible – to pick up on the vibes that they give out compared to if you were sitting in front of them. 

Thankfully, most online dating stories are happy ones – or at least pretty normal. But it always pays to make sure that you are safe when you sign up to an online dating site or app. Here are some of the best safety strategies to keep in mind. 

1) Search for yourself on Google first

This probably wasn’t the first thing that came to mind when you think about online dating safety. But amid all the regular ‘common-sense’ advice like don’t go to somebody’s house without meeting and getting to know them first, the first thing you should do – before you even sign up for online dating – is Google yourself and find out just how much public information about you is out there.

You may be surprised at the amount of data that has been accumulated about you online over the years, particularly from social media. 

And if there’s information coming up about you when you Google yourself, then anybody else can find out about you once they have your name.

Take a look through the search results and decide whether any of it is something that you wouldn’t want others to know. If that’s the case, then you’ll be able to request that Google remove that data. And make sure that your social profiles are set to private. 

2) Be careful with the personal details that you reveal

Most of the best dating sites and apps won’t require you to list your full name anyway – but you should avoid doing this, as it gives anybody up to no good more information about you that they could use to find out things you don’t particularly need strangers to know.

While you will always get the best results from online dating by being your complete authentic self in your profile, the good news is that you can do this without giving away too much personal information.

Keep your full name under wraps until you’ve been on a couple of dates with somebody and are sure that they are trustworthy. 

3) Get a temporary phone number

Most people who’ve used online dating services will tell you that messaging back and forth on a website or app can get annoying, especially if you’re building a good connection with somebody and you’ve not got the dating site open all the time. But, giving out your phone number can leave you vulnerable to being harassed by matches that don’t work out.

Thankfully, there are options to consider that will allow you to call, text or WhatsApp your matches without giving out your personal cell phone number until you’re sure that they deserve to have it.

You can create a free Google Voice number using an app that you download to your phone, or even get a different SIM card. 

4) Wait until you meet to reveal your job

If you’re proud of the way that you make money, then you probably wouldn’t think twice of telling a match all about your work. And let’s face it, ‘what do you do for work’ is a common ice-breaker question when online dating.

But, be careful about revealing too much information about your job. You may want to state what you do for a living and talk a little about what the job involves, but draw the line there – revealing your employer could be putting you at risk of having somebody turn up unannounced at your office; it has happened!

Unless you work for a large chain company with multiple locations in your area, where mentioning the brand isn’t as risky, there’s no way they’d know exactly which location you work at. 

5) Always meet up in a public place

This is an obvious and one of the most-given safety tips when it comes to online dating, but it’s definitely worth a mention – particularly with the rise of ‘hook-up’ apps like Tinder, which has made meeting up at a match’s home more commonplace.

While the majority of people who use online dating are perfectly decent, normal people – you just don’t want to take the risk of being alone at a stranger’s home before you’ve at least got to know them a little bit.

Plus, the way a match reacts to you insisting to meet up in a public place will tell you a lot about them as a person – if they’re not happy with that, then they’re probably not worth meeting. 

6) Tell somebody your plans

It’s worth letting somebody know – a friend or a relative – about your plans to go on a date with somebody that you’ve met online. Tell them what time you’re expected to meet them, where you’re meeting them and how long you expect to be. Just be sure to keep them in the loop if you end up chatting for hours and the date runs over the time you expected.

Letting somebody know can be reassuring for you as they know where you are meant to be and can help if anything goes wrong – even if it’s just coming to pick you up if you don’t end up getting on with your match as well as expected. 

7) Find out as much as you can about your date

Before meeting up with somebody that you’ve matched with on an online dating site or app to go on a date with them, it’s a good idea to find out as much as you can about them – not just by asking them questions, but also by doing some of your own research.

It’s safe to say that not everybody will be as vigilant as you are being when it comes to online dating, so if you’ve managed to get more personal information on your match than you’ve given them about yourself, you can use this information to get a clearer picture of who they are. 

A Google search of your match can be revealing – chances are if they’ve ever been in trouble in the past, you’ll be able to find this information. And if you want to be super sure, then you could even conduct a background check on a site like Public Records Review, found at this link.

All you need to do is enter a person’s name into the site and you’ll be able to access any public records about them, including criminal records if they have any. It’s a useful way to determine whether or not somebody is hiding something from you before you meet them. 

8) Make your own way to the date

An offer of being picked up to be taken on the date can seem romantic, but when you’re online dating, this can be a risky move. Not only will your match now know where you live, you’re also going to be in a car with a stranger. For the first date at least, it’s always best to either drive to the location yourself, take a taxi or take public transport. 

9) Take unique pictures for your dating profile

Most of your best pictures are probably already on social media sites like Facebook and Instagram, but be careful if you plan to upload these to your online dating profile too.

All it takes is for somebody to run a Google reverse image search on one of your pictures and they will have access to your social profile which could reveal more information about you than you wanted to pass on at this stage.

If you are going to use pictures that have been uploaded to your social media profiles, then make sure that your privacy settings are tight

10) Stay in control

Finally, have fun on your date, but stay in control. Try not to overdo it with alcohol as this will inhibit your judgement and you may end up making decisions that you would not have made sober.

And even if your date goes amazingly well, politely decline any offers to drive or walk you home – have a taxi booked or a friend waiting to pick you up, if it helps. The last thing you want is somebody that you’ve just met knowing where you live – even if they seemed fantastic, get to know them a little more over a few more dates first. 

Online dating can be a great way to meet new people and even find the love of your life – but it can have its risks, so put safety first. 

Photo by Vince Fleming