Marisa Schley

7 Tips for Safer Online Dating

Modern romance exposes us to strangers on the internet—protect yourself!

7 Tips for Safer Online Dating
Dating online is stressful already; don't make it worse by neglecting your safety. | PeopleWhiz

Meet-cutes have been replaced with "It's a match!" Thanks to modern dating, which has moved to online platforms, we're being exposed to a record number of strangers on a daily basis.

Here are a few terrifying facts for you.

  • In 2019, more than $200 million was lost to romance scams
  • A person crosses paths with a serial killer an average of 7 times in their lifetime
  • A person comes into contact with about 16 murderers in their lifetime
  • The Federal Trade Commission got more reports of romance scams in the last two years than any other reported fraud
  • Around 1 in 10 online dating profiles are fake

So how can you protect yourself while navigating the modern romance scene? Start by following these seven tips on how to stay safe while online dating.

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Limit the Personal Info You Provide

This is especially true when chatting with a new match. It can be tempting to divulge personal info when getting to know someone, as it is common to chat about your life and background.

Scammers make an effort to build up trust before asking for anything. By working to establish a connection and create a false sense of security, their targets are more inclined to let personal information slip over time. Even if you have been communicating with someone online for months, they may not be who they appear to be. Wait until you have met in person and have established the level of trust that sharing sensitive information requires.

Never Send Money

People, on the whole, are nice. We want to be giving and help whenever possible. Scammers know this and work to exploit this human quality. The main way they do this? By asking for money.

You "met" a guy and have been chatting for weeks. He mentions times are tough. He has been out of work and needs some money for bills. You're independent, doing well, and have some extra funds. Why not?

Scammers are very skilled at saying the right things to insinuate themselves into your trust (conman comes from confidence man). Protect yourself by never sending money, no matter how great their online profile looks.

Set Up a Video Chat Before Meeting in Person

Hop on a quick video chat to confirm that the person you're talking to is the person he or she claims to be. Sure, they could still be hiding things from you, but this will at least confirm they look like their photo.

Even if it's just to weed out the people who used photos from twenty years ago, a video call is always helpful. Thanks to the number of free services that allow video chats, there should be no reason why your love interest doesn't want a face-to-face call.

Keep a Friend in the Loop

Keep your BFF or a family member updated, especially when it comes time to meet. Shoot a quick text to a loved one detailing when and where you're planning on meeting your online match. You can even send over a screenshot of their profile picture as an extra level of precaution.

Many people set up check-in times with a friend as well, telling them that if they don't reach out by a specific time, something has gone wrong. Remember: It's better to be safe than sorry!

Fact-Check Them

So you've used a video chat service to verify that the photo they are using is actually them. Great! But how do you verify that they aren't hiding some dark secrets? We're not all natural-born internet sleuths. For help in this area, turn to a reputable service that will compile public record information on your newfound love, like PeopleWhiz.

While you won't learn everything there is to know, you will get access to things like marriage licenses, social media accounts, property findings, and contact information, all of which can help you verify what your match has told you thus far.

Meet in Public Places

How much can you really get to know someone over a cup of coffee? It may be tempting to have your next date be at his house for a movie night, but it's wise to continue to meet in public places while in the getting-to-know-you stage. Keep your rendezvous public, and opt to meet at the designated location rather than having your match pick you up.

This saves you from having to share your address before you're ready and also ensures that you have an immediate means of transportation, should you decide to cut the date short.

Did you just swipe right on a roach?

Trust Your Instincts

If it's too good to be true, it probably is. Gut feelings have been known to save lives, so don't ignore your instincts. Too often we second-guess ourselves or attempt to explain away red flags.

When in doubt, opt for a direct conversation with your love interest. It's always better to be upfront than to hide the fact that you're uncomfortable with something. If it's truly meant to be, your match will be open to an honest chat about your concerns.

Whenever something feels really off, cut your losses and get out of there. Nothing is more important than your safety.

Safely Find Love

Dating in and of itself is stressful. Are we compatible? Do we want the same things out of life? Will we have fun? What past baggage are we bringing into the relationship? Don't add jeopardizing your safety into the mix! With a few boundaries and a healthy dose of skepticism, you can protect yourself while navigating the online dating scene. Happy swiping!

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