Technology has made it easier than ever for new romances and friendships to bloom. It also makes it easier for predators of all types to target potential victims. This doesn’t mean that online dating is fundamentally unsafe — there are plenty of good folks using online dating apps, and it can be a blast! But what it does mean is that everyone using online dating platforms should be aware of the risks and take necessary precautions to ensure their safety and comfort.
We’ve seen and heard too many stories of violence that is a result of online dating. Earlier this year, a California man was arrested on suspicion of raping a woman he met on eHarmony — and police said they believed there could be many more victims. In 2013, Jason Marshall allegedly tortured and murdered a man he met on a dating app in the victim’s own home. He was later convicted of murdering yet another man, in a similar manner.
And in 2015, 28-year-old Ashley Pegram was brutally murdered by a man she met on the MeetMe app. Not all of the alleged perpetrators of violence via online dating have been brought to justice: Gable Tostee, a known serial Tinder dater who bragged of his sexual prowess, was acquitted of murdering Warriena Wright after she fell from a balcony attached to his 14th floor apartment.
Perhaps some of these horrifying tragedies — and many more — could have been avoided if there was more public awareness of the potential dangers of online dating and how best to avoid falling victim.
We’ve put together a list of guidelines that can help you stay safe and feel safe as you navigate the world of online dating.
Tip #1: Start SAFE with your online profile
The following rules apply when you just start out on a dating site.
- Don’t include surname or any reference to workplace or school name
- Don’t give out name, location, phone number or any other information that someone could use to track you down
- Don’t have someone call you on a friend’s number—this can be just as dangerous as giving out your own number
- Stop all communication with anyone who doesn’t respect your boundaries and insists on your name, number, or any other personal information
- Be careful which photos you post; never post photos with your license plate showing, the outside of your home showing, by your mailbox, or anywhere else that can potentially expose your location.
Tip #2 Check Out Your Potential Date Online
- Your potential date could also be using their own alias, but if possible, check out their social media profiles to get a better gauge of them.
- Make sure the person has at least a few pics as well as a bio. Steer clear of profiles that have no photos and refuse to share any. This could be a red flag that they’re married or a number of other reasons that you shouldn’t deal with.
Tip #3 Getting to Know a Potential Date
- Don’t give out your phone number and definitely NOT your address to ANYONE before you’ve met them in person and are sure they are safe. Any safe dating app or site will give you a way to communicate with them safely and anonymously before an in-person meeting.
Consider a Skype video conference if you want to talk to and the see your potential date before meeting. It’s a good way to connect without giving out your phone number until you’re comfortable. Make sure your Skype name doesn’t give away personal information, just as you would with your online dating profile.
Tip #4 Plan to Protect Yourself: Preparing for the Date
- Under no circumstances should you ever meet someone at their home or anywhere that’s not in public on the first few dates.
- Tell a trusted friend exactly where you are going and when, and agree to check in with them when you leave.
- Don’t meet up somewhere unfamiliar. Choose a familiar, public spot where you feel comfortable.
- If you drive, arrive early and park before your date can see your car—or have someone else drive you.
- If possible, meet during the daytime
Tip #5: On the date: What to look for
- If your date looks nothing like their photos and/or isn’t the person you talked to on Skype, leave immediately and do not look back.
- If you have to excuse yourself, never leave any of your belongings behind, even if you’ll return in a few minutes.
- Carry a pen and paper: If for any reason you don’t feel safe or comfortable, and are having trouble extricating yourself, excuse yourself to go to the restroom and write a note asking for help. Slip it to a staff member at the restaurant, bar, or coffee shop.
- While do you want to get to know the person, don’t reveal too many details about yourself during the first date.
[Feature Photo: Pexels]