Worried about scammers and predators? Online dating doesn’t have to be scary. Here are a few rules to help you ensure a safe and fun online-dating experience.
1. Keep you profile free from personal, identifying information.
Some things are obvious: Don’t publish your address, phone number, email address, or last name in your profile.
Go the extra mile, safety-wise, by leaving out other identifying details, too. Love your city? Great, but don’t share which neighborhood you live in. Don’t offer specific information about your workplace either.
Use a unique profile photo. If you use a photo you’ve used elsewhere online, a quick reverse image search might link your potential suitor to identifying information on a blog or social media site.
2. Go slow.
Pace yourself when you start conversing with someone you meet online.
Don’t immediately add him/her to Instagram or Facebook. If you feel pressured into giving an address or phone number sooner than you’d like, put the brakes on the flirtation.
Be wary of individuals who want to send you gifts, who want you to send him/her nude photos, or who use language that pushes the relationship forward faster than what makes you comfortable.
3. Tell your friends.
Let your friends know about any fledgling online relationships — and listen to them if they warn you of red flags.
When it comes time for the first date, let a third party know when and where you’ll be meeting your date and have them check in on you after the date is scheduled to end.
4. Go public.
Make sure your first date is a public one. Arrive and leave separately. Stay sober. Don’t leave your drink or purse unattended. If you’re traveling to meet him/her, stay at a hotel (in your own room) and not at your date’s house. And, again, share your travel plans and date’s contact info with a trusted friend before you go.
5. Trust your gut.
You don’t have to date someone just because they show an interest in you. If you’re not comfortable with how things are progressing, you have every right to end the correspondence.
Red flags should be waving if the person you’re chatting with requests money, uses manipulative or bullying language, disappears and reappears with poor explanations, or is “recently widowed” or unwilling to divulge his/her their current relationship status.
If you do encounter a predatory, scamming or dangerous online dater, report the abuse to site administrators — and, if it applies, the police.
Most sites are careful to weed out the questionable characters. You can help keep online dating safe by not tolerating individuals who make it miserable for everyone.
There are good people out there. We promise.