Dating apps can be a good way to meet your next true love but there are risks in the modern quest for a relationship. When you meet someone online you never know if they are who they say they are, or what their motivations might be. We know that dating can lead to heartache, but online dating can open you up to both financial scams and physical danger. Here are some tips to keep you safe this Valentine’s Day as you search for your perfect partner.
Limit the information you share. On your profile, just use your first name or a nickname, not your full name. Don’t include details about where you live or work, turn off location settings, and avoid linking your social media to your dating app. Use unique photos on the dating app – don’t use photos that you also have posted on social media. Someone can easily run a reverse image search to find other places where you’ve posted that photo and discover your full name and other details about you. And make sure photos don’t accidentally reveal personal details like your house number.
Find out all you can. Examine the person’s photos, profile, and social media to determine if they seem legitimate. Note any inconsistencies or “red flags.” Be wary of profiles that have only one photo, no bio, or seem too good to be true. Scammers and fake profiles are more likely to say that they are new to the app, just moved to the area, or include a sad story such as that they are a widower with children. Consider a video call before you meet face to face to make sure the person matches their photos.
Enlist your friends. Let a friend or family member know who you are meeting, as well as when and where. Take screenshots of the person’s profile and provide your friends as much information as possible. Arrange to check in after the date and consider having a friend call or text midway through the date in case you need an excuse to leave.
Control the meeting. Arrange to meet in public for a first date, not at your house or theirs – and then stay in public for the entire date. Lunch or coffee dates are ideal. Stay sharp – be careful how much you drink, never leave your drink unattended, and don’t let yourself get too tired. Don’t rely on your date to drive you but arrange for your own transportation. Make sure your phone is fully charged.
Above all, trust your intuition. If someone feels suspicious, dangerous, or just “off” don’t be afraid to block them, report them to the dating app, or leave the date. Don’t fall for sad stories and don’t accept excuses or lies. If someone asks for money, threatens, or harasses you, contact law enforcement.
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