The world of online dating can sometimes seem like a scary place. You might feel alone or vulnerable while you’re interacting with complete strangers and sharing your personal and private information. If that’s not scary enough, the end goal is to go MEET these people in real life! We’ll give you a minute for your heart rate to come down and let you catch your breath…
We’re not trying to scare you here. What we are trying to do is be realistic and give you the tools and information you need to have a wonderful time dating online. Here are a few things you need to know before you we get started.
First, you are not alone. We are here with you in this crazy world of online dating. Second, online dating can be safe as long as you follow some safety guidelines to keep things on the up and up. In this guide, we’re going to walk you through everything you need to know to be safe and successful in your search for love.
This guide is a MUST read for anyone that’s putting themselves out there.
Some of the tips we talk about may seem like common sense while some may be new to you. The threats on the internet are changing every day and becoming more evolved. Because of that, it’s important that you read this guide and stay ahead of the bad guys so you can have a truly amazing online dating experience without any hiccups or speed bumps.
If you have any friends or family that date online or might be looking to give it a try, we highly recommend you send them this guide so they can be safe too.
Now that we’ve gotten all of the housekeeping out of the way let’s dive headfirst into the safety tips.
Protect Your Personal Information
What kind of information do you put on your online dating profile? Well, you put your name…your location…your interests…photos of you around town and maybe at your house…photos of your car…Basically, you are putting A TON of personal information out there about yourself. While this is necessary to give potential matches a better picture of who we are, we need to be careful about what all we put out there. Let’s walk through some things that you have to remember.
- NEVER put your social security number, birthday, credit card info, banking info, or any other sensitive information on your profile. This is information that should be kept secret and never shared with a match online (no matter how well you think you know them). This information is fine to give to the site when you’re creating your account but needs to stay far away from your profile and from your private messages.
- Don’t share your last name until after you’ve had several dates with a person. There’s no reason to give a complete stranger from the internet that sort of information. They can use that to look up all of your social media profiles and find out way more information about you than you might be comfortable sharing.
- Make sure your social media (Facebook) is not searchable by phone number if you give out your phone number to someone. Honestly, you’re probably better off messaging through the app even though the first date until you are comfortable with someone. A phone number can be used to find a lot of information about someone.
Here are the instructions to make sure your Facebook is safe from being searched by your email or by your phone number.
- Don’t tell people where you work until you are comfortable with them knowing that information. You can tell them what you do for a living, but you might want to keep the details out of the conversation until you are more comfortable sharing them. Telling someone you work as a barista instead of telling them that you work at a Starbucks on XYZ road is no different and should not scare someone off.
There’s no reason to make up a fake name or anything like that. Just make sure when you create your profile that you are aware of what information you are putting out there.
Make sure your photos don’t give away any information you don’t want to share. A lot of times people forget that their dating profile photos might have sensitive information in them. For example, the one we see all the time is people taking pictures in front of their house with their address showing or in front of their car with their license plates showing.
Stick to Reputable Sites
One of the best ways to stay safe when dating online is by sticking to reputable and trusted online dating sites and apps. There are a few reasons that this is important that we’re going to cover. If you’re looking for a reputable dating site, check out our online dating site reviews to find the site that is best for you. We refuse to recommend a site that is unsafe or not on top of their security.
The first reason you need to be with a reputable site is that the site will have safeguards in place to make sure you are more protected. They’re going to be active against harassment, helpful in monitoring that you aren’t accidentally doing something unsafe, and overall supportive in making the process safe.
The second reason that it’s important is that you want to make sure your information is safe. You might be being a good boy or girl and following our tips and keeping your private information off your profile, but that doesn’t mean you aren’t giving that information to the site. You’re going to want to be on a site that cares about their security and has the latest and greatest in security technology.
You want to make sure that your information is protected from the site’s employees, potential hackings, and that they aren’t selling your information to third-party companies. All of these are big no-nos, and we refuse to recommend a site that engages in any of these practices. You might be shocked how often it happens in the online dating industry.
For the most part, the sites mean well. However, meaning well is not enough to keep you safe and protected. We’re looking for sites that go above and beyond the call of duty when it comes to safety and security.
Some Free Trials at Reputable Sites to Get You Started
|Rank||Site||Free Trial Link|
|#2||Elite Singles||Free Trial|
|#3||Christian Mingle||Free Trial|
Verify Matches as Much as Possible
If you’ve spent any amount of time on the internet, you know that it’s one of the easiest places for people to pretend to be something they are not. You’ve probably heard terrible horror stories of people getting “catfished” online where they end up meeting someone and finding out they are not who they said they are. Heck, there’s an entire MTV show dedicated to this!
While there is no way to protect yourself from this completely, there are ways that you can limit your odds of having problems. It all comes down to trying to verify as much information about a person as possible before you meet them.
The first way you can do this is to join a site that has some sort of verification process. A lot of times, sites will allow you to pay a few bucks extra to get your identity verified. This usually puts a little badge on your dating profile that lets other members know that you’ve submitted information to prove that you are who you say you are. Is this able to be faked? Possibly, but it would be really hard, and we highly doubt anyone is going to try and go through the trouble of doing it.
The second way that we recommend you do some vetting is by using your intuition and Google. Do the things the person is saying add up? Do they seem always to have an over the top answer for everything? Do the things they say contradict other things they’ve said? If you start to get some red flags or things feel like they aren’t right, you need to take a step back and reevaluate.
Remember, if someone is claiming something that is documented, you can always use Google to try and validate their claims. If things aren’t adding up, take that step back and reevaluate. If you need to, ask the person you’re talking to about it. If you’re worried about them thinking you’re nuts for doing your homework, you need to frame it properly. Tell them that you’re overly cautious with online dating (which is smart) and hopefully they respect that.
We’re not saying to go crazy and hire a private investigator. All we’re saying is that you need to be safe and if there are ways for you to validate someone you haven’t met claims, then you should certainly do that. Don’t write them off just because you can’t find something, but definitely put your guard up a bit higher. If you do find that they are full of crap, ask them about it and then run for the hills if they don’t have a good answer.
Control the First Meeting
The end goal of online dating is to meet someone in person and hopefully hit it off. As you can imagine, you’re fairly safe when you’re behind your computer screen, but you become a lot more vulnerable when you meet a date in person. Again, we are not trying to scare you. We just want to be realistic to keep you safe.
When you go to meet someone for a first date (or first couple dates), there are a few precautions that you need to take.
- Make sure that you tell someone where you are going, who you are going with, and when you plan to be home. Let them know you will be checking in with them when you get home. If they don’t hear from you, let them know to sound the alarm.
- When you meet, DO NOT have them pick you up. Meet them somewhere that is public and safe. This goes for the end of the date too. You don’t want them to drop you off at home in case maybe you took an Uber or a Lyft. There’s no reason that someone should know where you live until you are comfortable letting them know that information.
- To reiterate, make sure your first date location is somewhere public. You want to be around other people for your entire date in case things don’t work out the way you are expecting them to.
Don’t let someone pressure you into doing anything or going anywhere that you are not comfortable with. If someone gives you a hard time about this, that in itself should be a big dating red flag. They should respect the fact that you’re taking the process seriously and want to be safe. It’s not “no fun” or a “buzzkill” if you want to be safe. Someone who is worth your time will respect that and be patient with you. This goes for women AND men. All of these tips do.
Trust Your Instincts
The end-all online dating tip we have for you to be safe and secure is to trust your instincts. You have to give yourself and your brain credit for being smart. How many bad situations in your life have you felt like something wasn’t right? You’ve probably had several times when you had that feeling in your stomach or the back of your mind that let you know that things weren’t adding up.
Remember, there are thousands and thousands of potential matches online. There’s no reason that you have to take unnecessary risks or put yourself in a potentially dangerous situation. If it smells wrong, trust your feelings. You are the best and number one safety and security measure for yourself. The online dating sites will do what they can to help, but ultimately you’re going to be the first and last line of defense.
Online dating is safe as long as you do your part.
Written By: Jason Lee
Jason Lee is a journalist and data analyst with a passion for studying online dating, relationships, personal growth, healthcare, and finance. In 2008, Jason earned a Bachelors of Science from the University of Florida, where he studied business and finance and taught interpersonal communication.
His work has been featured in the likes of The USA Today, MSN, The Motley Fool, Net Health, and The Simple Dollar. As a business owner, relationship strategist, dating coach, and officer in the U.S. military, Jason enjoys sharing his unique knowledge base with the rest of the world.