Meeting a special someone, whether for a reason, season, or time isn’t an easy feat. So, when online dating emerged in the late 90s, singletons all over the UK quickly embraced it.
The idea of scrolling through a list of prospects or, better yet, having the dating site narrow the field for you is a gamechanger. But, while there are so many benefits of meeting new people online, it comes with unique challenges – or at least cautions. That’s why we’ve put together this handy guide with ten tips for safe online dating in the UK.
Some tips might seem glaringly obvious, while others will have you saying, “wow, I didn’t even think about that.” Following the suggestions in this quick read can add a good measure of security whether you’re seeking a lifelong partner or a casual encounter.
Safe Online Dating – Before You Meet In-Person
We’re separating our tips into online communication and steps you should take when you are ready to move forward and meet IRL.
Safe online dating in the UK is a two-way street. So, the person you’re starting to correspond with should also want to know more about you, especially to ensure you are who you say. Of course, you’re getting to know each other and want to share. But there’s no reason to tell your entire life story until you know someone better.
Is there really any reason to share your mum’s maiden name or information on your first pet?
Find the sweet spot between telling a bit about yourself and keeping some cards close to your chest. After all, we’re talking about safety precautions, starting with how much you reveal about yourself.
Suggestion: Use this tip with your social media and online dating profiles. A bit of mystery can be appealing as well as self-protective.
Stay In the App
Keeping your conversations in your dedicated dating app is much safer until you’ve been on several dates and are getting to know someone. Most online daters, especially women, have reported receiving sexually explicit messages or harassing messages.
You’ve got some recourse as long as you’re registered with a reputable UK dating app and use it exclusively for communicating with other singles. Some providers have stringent blocking mechanisms for these situations. But, if not, you can submit a report and have them kicked off the platform. It’s not so easy with your personal email or mobile number.
Be a Detective
When you connect with new people you’re interested in, you might think of Googling them. But did you consider looking for their social media profiles and then doing a little research on their family and friends?
Your Google search might come up short. But put that Sherlock Holmes cap on and solve the mystery of who they really are. It can feel like you’re violating that person’s privacy. But we’re talking about safe online dating in the UK. So, due diligence is in order.
The Dating App Matters
Did you know that Richmond and Bexley are two of the safest areas in London? If you’re meeting people who live in those areas, there’s a greater chance that they’re reputable and aren’t out picking pockets.
The same principle applies to online dating apps. Being discriminating about which one you use is one of the essential things you can do to keep yourself safe. There’s a massive difference between a provider like eHarmony, which has an extensive registration process and a fly-by-night, one-night-stand-driven app that’s a free for all.
A few other online dating safety considerations:
- Never loan money
- Review their dating profiles for multiple pics (one image only is a red flag as they might not be who they portray)
- Expand your detective work to include LinkedIn – an employment profile matching social media is a good sign, especially if you can verify the company
Turning Safe Online Dating into Safe Offline Dating in the UK
You’ve taken all the necessary precautions by keeping things in the dating app, sharing “just enough,” and doing ample research to feel comfortable that the person you’re interested in is who they say.
Now it’s time to take it into real-life situations with a safety-first approach.
Double (or Triple) is Excellent for Singles
One of the best approaches to a first date with someone you met online is to include friends. Suggest you each bring another couple and meet in a restaurant or public place.
It’s a much safer approach, and your best mate can give you an unbiased opinion after the date.
Rely on Family and Friends
If you’re not bringing anyone you know on your date, tell at least one of your family members or friends where you’re going and contact them when you’re home safely. Stick to the schedule – don’t switch gears during the date and go somewhere unplanned.
Public Meeting Spot
This is one of those obvious tips but always bears repeating. There’s safety in numbers, so meet up in a public place with many people. A restaurant is a great choice if it’s in a well-trafficked area.
Oh, and get yourself there. Don’t let someone you’ve never met come to your home or flat to pick you up.
Throw Politeness Out the Window
It sounds odd to be impolite when you’re dating. But we’re talking about safe online dating in London and the UK, so you need to trust your gut. If you feel uneasy about your date, honour it. You can be kind and make an excuse to end the date early.
If you’re feeling uncomfortable and you’re alone, call someone to pick you up or drive home with you.
Fully Charged Mobile (and Watch)
Your mobile opened the door to meeting your date, and it’s also one of the most important things to have with you on the date. While you probably never leave your home without it, ensure it’s fully charged.
We also recommend wearing your smartwatch if you have one. It’s another valuable safeguard whether you’re on a date or out by yourself, especially if it’s connected to a cellular plan.
Both Eyes On One or Two Drinks
Yes, you might be nervous. After all, it’s a first date. But don’t overdo it with the cocktails. You want to keep your wits about you for safety reasons.
Another essential tip is always to keep your eyes on your drink. Don’t go to the loo and leave an unfinished drink. There are endless tales of drink spiking – more than 2,500 in England and Wales alone in the four years before the COVID lockdowns.
A few additional tips for safe dating in the UK:
- Establish a second phone number for dating purposes only (you don’t need a second mobile to have a different phone number)
- Have some cash in hand for emergencies
- Only ever use highly rated UK dating apps.
- Suggest meeting up at your local pub or restaurant where other people know you.
Safe Online Dating in the UK is a Two-Way Street
We’ve covered all kinds of easy things you can do to keep yourself safe in the wide, wonderful world of online dating. But don’t forget that your date is in the same boat and wants to feel just as secure. So, don’t be too secretive, or that could send the wrong message.
Safety is priority number one but have fun, too. Your lifelong partner could be a few clicks away!
Note: Visit the UK’s Online Dating Safety Association for more information and resources.