LIFE

14 Ways To Stay Safe While Using Online Dating Websites

by Desirée O

If you’re looking for romance but haven’t had much luck meeting someone special at the local bar, and your friends aren’t exactly experts when it comes to arranging blind dates, then you might want to try a more modern method of matchmaking: online dating.

According to GQ, one-third of marriages now start online, thanks to popular platforms such as Match.com, OkCupid, Tinder, and Bumble. On the flip side, the odds of finding your soul mate during a night out in a large city like London are in the range of three in a million. Yeah, it’s pretty dire.

Thankfully, when it comes to searching for a love connection via the web, there are seemingly endless options regarding what sort of relationship or arrangement you can seek out, not to mention how you’d like to go about interacting with others who are also looking to meet like-minded folks.

But before you sign up for a service and start swiping through potential matches, here are 14 things you should consider to ensure that you stay safe while looking for love online. 

1. Set Your Goals and Boundaries

1. Set Your Goals and Boundaries
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It’s a good idea to know what you’re looking for before you delve into the world of online dating. For instance, are you just looking for someone to casually chat with, and maybe hook up? Or are you interested in connecting with someone who is also interested in a potential long-term relationship?

You should also establish a solid idea of the boundaries you’re comfortable with. If you’re OK with chatting but unsure about the idea of sending personal photos, then go ahead and chat while skipping the pics. There’s no need to leave your comfort zone in this particular circumstance, and it’s best to trust your gut.

2. Find a Reputable Dating Website That You’re Comfortable With

2. Find a Reputable Dating Website That You’re Comfortable With
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Once you know what you’re looking for and what you are (and are not) willing to do when it comes to interacting with others, then it’s time to start checking out different dating websites. There are plenty of larger, well-known sites and apps that can offer a wider range of matches while also ensuring certain security precautions. For example, apps like Bumble require that women make the first move in starting conversation, which can cut down on unwanted and unsolicited messages.

There are also dating websites that are localized or focused on certain groups and/or interests. If you’re Jewish, you can meet other Jewish singles on a dating website just for you. There are even dating sites for different professions. For example, if you happen to be a farmer, there’s a dating website just for those in the agricultural field.

3. Don’t Expose Too Much About Yourself in Your Profile

3. Don’t Expose Too Much About Yourself in Your Profile
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While your profile should be an honest reflection of who you are, and give others a decent idea of what you’re all about, there’s no need to include too much information about yourself online.

For instance, never include things like your personal email address or your home address. And while you can state what you do for a living, you might want to avoid mentioning the company you work for or clients you work with. If you’re a parent, you should also be wary about sharing too much information about your children — it’s fine to mention that you have three kids, but avoid sharing their names or any pics of them online.

4. Don’t Expose Too Much About Yourself in Conversations

4. Don’t Expose Too Much About Yourself in Conversations
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In the same way you should be picky about what you include in your profile, be sure not to expose too much about yourself when you’re sending messages or having conversations with new people.

For instance, you might share your first name but keep your last name private at first. You might mention the state or city you live in, but definitely don’t reveal which street you’re on. If you want to avoid any potential missteps when it comes to sharing your private info, then make a list ahead of time of which details to avoid.

5. Be Smart and Use Your Common Sense

5. Be Smart and Use Your Common Sense
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You know the old saying: If it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is. There’s certainly the chance that you’ll connect with someone who shares many of your interests and has a similar background to you. You might even match up with a foreign prince who’s looking for love with someone just like you and happens to prefer dating websites over royal galas. But always be smart and use your common sense. If that foreign prince asks for your bank routing number and Social Security number so he can share his fortune with you, it’s time to move on. 

6. Be Wary of Profiles/People With a Sob Story

6. Be Wary of Profiles/People With a Sob Story
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There’s nothing wrong with being sympathetic to a person who’s been through a tough time or survived a heartbreaking loss. But unfortunately there are some unscrupulous people out there who use a fake sob story to elicit feelings — and perhaps more insidious rewards — from strangers online. Before you shed a tear over someone’s sad circumstances, be sure that you’re not falling into an emotional trap.

7. Check Them Out

7.  Check Them Out
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Once you’ve connected with people online and have started sharing certain details about each other (for instance, your last names), then it’s time to check them out online. There’s a difference between being nosy and getting a reasonable idea of the person you’re dealing with, which is why you shouldn’t shy away from checking out anyone you meet online with a handy-dandy Google search. Trust me, everyone does it. 

Check out their social media profiles, their LinkedIn, and if they have a blog, take your time reading whatever it is that they share with the internet. While an online presence doesn’t necessarily tell you everything about a person, it can give you a glimpse at who that person is — and you might even spot a few red flags.

8. Go Slow

8. Go Slow
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There’s no reason to rush, even if things are going really well. And there’s no reason to move to another messaging system, start talking on the phone right away, or even become friends on Facebook (Facebook opens up a lot of access to your personal life, family, friends, etc.) before you’re ready. And beware: If people say they love you too quickly, they could be scammers or have bad intentions. 

9. Be Cautious When It Comes to Sexting

9. Be Cautious When It Comes to Sexting
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If you like to sext, there’s no shame in that. You do you! But when you’ve just started dating someone new online, you might want to be extra cautious about the types of messages and private pics you share. Until you truly (and fully) trust someone, always consider how you would feel if that particular message and/or pic was posted somewhere else online where anyone could see it.

10. Apply Normal Online Rules to Online Dating

10. Apply Normal Online Rules to Online Dating
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Just as you wouldn’t open a suspicious email from an unknown sender, don’t open any weird messages from someone you meet online. Some shady scammers use dating sites for phishing, hacking, and other sketchy traps that you definitely want to avoid.

11. Listen to Your Gut

11. Listen to Your Gut
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If you’re getting a weird vibe and something just feels off (even if you can’t quite put your finger on what it is), then there’s a very good chance that the person you’re dealing with is not being 100% honest. It doesn’t matter if you’ve merely sent one message to someone or you’ve been been chatting for months (even years), if your gut is telling you to keep your distance, then do it — even if that means completely cutting off communication. It’s better to be safe than sorry!

12. Report Suspicious or Offensive People/Behavior

12. Report Suspicious or Offensive People/Behavior
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If someone is acting suspicious or makes remarks that are downright offensive, then you might need to report that person. Dating websites usually have security features that include customizable privacy settings and customer service contact information that you can use to report the problem. If this person is being abusive or offensive to you, chances are you’re not the only one — you’ll likely be doing the whole online dating community a solid!

13. Tell Your Friends

13. Tell Your Friends
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While you might be a little nervous to let others know that you’re trying online dating, it’s important to be honest with at least one or two of your friends. Pick friends you trust, and keep them up to date when it comes to which dating websites and apps you’re using and the people you’ve been interacting with. That way, if trouble crops up, you have friends already in the loop who can help you out.

14. Follow Certain Rules if You Meet in Person

14. Follow Certain Rules if You Meet in Person
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If you’ve connected with someone online and decide that you’re ready to meet IRL, then it’s important to follow certain rules. First, tell someone you trust (a friend or family member) where you’re going and at what time. Give the name of the person you’re going out with as well as any other relevant information you have. Agree to a time when you’ll check in with your friend, or your friend will check in with you. And if at any time during the date you feel uncomfortable, feel free to get up and leave.

But hopefully — and more often than not — your date will be just as you thought, and you’ll be able to relax, enjoy yourself, and make a meaningful connection.