Protecting Your Personal Information When Online Dating

Online Safety

It would be AMAZING if online dating were all roses, rainbows, and smiles. For the most part, it can be, but there are some things that you need to do to make sure your experience stays fun and doesn’t turn into a safety nightmare.

We’ve all seen those terribly addicting Lifetime movies where people meet people online and end up getting kidnapped or hurt physically or emotionally.

The good news is that you can keep yourself from being the star of the next Lifetime drama by taking some precautions to keep yourself safe. One of the biggest things you need to pay attention to is keeping your personal information safe. But what information is ok to share and what can’t you share? What poses a security risk and what doesn’t?

We are going to cover all of that and more.

We would like to say before we get started that if you want a more in-depth look at keeping yourself safe online, make sure you check out our complete online safety and security guide. It’s exhaustive, but a must read for you or for any friends that are dating online.

Additionally, if you’re looking for the safest dating apps, we have a great guide put together to help.

Protect Your Personal Information

Part of the reason that people like dating online is that it allows you to meet people without completely putting yourself out there. It allows you to be reserved and keep personal things personal until you are ready to share them with a potential match. While this is a fantastic advantage, it only matters if you make sure to keep that personal information private.

It’s a fine line to dance when you’re filling out your profile and chatting with potential matches. You want to give them an honest look at who you are, but you also don’t want to tell them everything about your life before you know you can trust them. To make this dance a bit easier, let’s talk about what you should and should not share with people.

Your Address

No one needs to know where you live until you are EXTREMELY comfortable with them. You can use your address when you create your account for billing, but make sure that you don’t post it on your profile or share it with matches until you are ready for them to know where you live.

Your Phone Number

This is one that people don’t think of that often. The online dating sites give you a messaging app for a reason. Yes, it could be easier to text back and forth with potential matches, but it does open you up to a safety risk. People can use your phone number to look up your information, find you on Facebook, and even locate your address or where you work. Yes, the internet is a scary place.

What we recommend you do is use the messaging app through at least the first date. Set up the date through the app or website and then if you need to message them before the date, do it on the app. You can also get an app like WhatsApp or some other communication app that does not use your phone number if you have to message with texts.

This might sound like extra work, but it’s designed to keep you safe. We’ve heard too many horror stories not to sound like your mom and ask you to take this precaution here. Don’t think it’s a big deal? Check out this article from Truth Finder about what you can find out from someone’s phone number.

Where You Work

There is absolutely nothing wrong with telling someone what you do for a living. There is a safety concern, though, if you tell people where you work or give them enough information to figure out where you work. You can tell someone that you work as a cashier, but you don’t have to tell them at what store. If they press, you can always tell them “a department store” or something like that. If they keep pressing for particulars, it could be a bit of a red flag.

Also, keep this in mind if your job is a very specialty type one. If you say that you work for the water district for a small town, there are probably only going to be one office where you could work. In that example, you could just say you work for the state. The point here is that you don’t want someone showing up at your work that you had a bad date with. The less they know about how to find you, the better.

Remember, it’s not rude to be safe. Someone you are looking to date should respect that you’re trying to be safe. If they don’t, that’s a huge red flag.

Family Information

Again, it’s completely ok when you’re dating online to let potential matches know the basic information about your family and your friends. That being said, you don’t want to give them too much information until you know they are someone you can trust. The idea with all of these tips has nothing to do with when dates go well. They have to do with when online dates don’t go well.

Typically, when a date doesn’t go well you go your separate ways, and that is that. The problem is that some people out there (a very small few) don’t handle rejection well. This is part of what we have to be on the lookout for. We don’t want these people that are upset contacting our family or harassing them in any way, shape, or form. This is why we want to keep this information generic.

The Big Picture

Eventually, it’s going to be ok to let someone know all of this information and more. The goal of online dating is to find that special someone that you can share your most intimate secrets and information with. We just don’t want you to rush that. Make the person you are dating earn that trust before you give it to them.

This won’t turn off anyone who is a normal potential match. Anyone that gets turned off by you wanting to be safe should be avoided at all costs. You want to find someone that looks out for your own good. Is that going to be someone who doesn’t respect you wanting to be safe?

We aren’t asking you to come up with a fake name and all fake profile information. We aren’t asking you to lie about anything. All we are asking you to do is to consider being generic with a lot of your information and taking your time before you share personal details with someone you just met (or haven’t even met) online.

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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.