Online Dating is no where close to where it was 10 years ago. According to eHarmony, more than 40% of Americans have used online dating services to try and find that special someone. Although it has turned into more of a socially acceptable way of meeting people, it still poses its own set of risks.

Considering over 28% of online daters have been contacted in a way that made them feel harassed or uncomfortable, it is better to have a plan in place then to be surprised in the moment. Choosing the right dating sites, chatting online with potential dates, and meeting someone for the first time can be dangerous should the right mindset not be taken.

Just like with The Guardian’s Soulmate breach that happened last year, there is also the risk of having your data stolen or manipulated. Many free dating sites are hidden with individuals with ill intentions; the catfishers do get their photos from somewhere. The Hushedapp team along with a handful of dating experts have put together a list of the top things you NEED to know to stay safe if your entering the dating game in 2018.

 

plant, notebook and artisan coffee on plank wood desk

When Signing Up For Online Dating

1. Be careful what sites you use.

Free dating sites may be cheaper, but the lack of security and verification makes you more vulnerable to scammers. Their tend to be more fake accounts on sites that forgo a credit card or any kind of verification.

2. Be selective with your profile information.

Don’t share intimate details on where you currently work, attend school, your home address or your social media handles. This information can be seen by potential dates, but also people who you may never speak with or meet. It is okay to show the location of what city you live in, but putting any additional information about your location can be dangerous. This includes the name of your neighborhood, apartment complex, or any nearby landmarks. Online dating users should never know anything more than the general city you live in. If you have the option, make sure that your information is only visible to the people you approve.

3. Use a free or disposable email.

When signing up for any online dating service, use a free disposable email. Keep this email only for dating sites. Not only will it help organize communications, but also provide a layer of protection should someone try and use your email to find you online.
Bonus Tip: only use your FIRST name in the email and email signature (if needed.)

 

POV of man typing on mac laptop with coffee and phone next to it

When Chatting On Online Dating Sites

Dee Simone, author of “Picking up the Pieces: Rebuilding Yourself For The Love and Relationship You Deserve” (available on Amazon) shares her best piece of advice for online dating:

“When it comes to online dating and dating apps, you should always think safety over chemistry. Never let your perceived connection or deep chemistry with a man lull you into a false sense of comfort where you disregard safety precautions – like driving your own car to the date or rejecting suggestions to have your first date at one another’s home.”

Get To Know Your Online Dates BEFORE you meet up with them.

1. Get to know the person that you are talking with before agreeing to meet in person. There is no exact timeframe for when the best time to meet an online date is because every situation is different. Generally, if you have been speaking with the person frequently, 2-3 weeks (at minimum) is suggested. This is just a suggestion though, always use your best judgement on how soon to meet an online date.

Look for Questionable Characteristics in Your Communication.

2. As you chat via email and on the phone you may be able to start to pick out characteristics of the other person. Are they controlling? Do they seem to anger easily? Do they avoid some of your questions? These can be questionable characteristics that tell you it’s time to move on. It’s easier to end the communication now, than be in denial about it later.

Be wary with the information that you discuss/share.

3. Again, don’t provide any information that you wouldn’t share with someone your just getting to know. You don’t need to get too personal when just starting to get to know someone, you don’t know what they will do with it. Make sure that you trust the individual that you are talking to before getting into details.

Beware of Married People

4. Married people use online dating as a discreet way to be someone they are not. If you sense red flags don’t be afraid to ask questions.

Get their real name and snoop around a little on social networking sites

5. Make sure they are who they say they are. If you can, try and search for a recent picture on Facebook or Instagram. This will at least verify if the current images on there dating profile are accurate.

Use a temporary/disposable phone number

6. Until you are comfortable providing you real number, use a temporary or disposable number. If the date doesn’t go as planned, you can always delete the number and end communications. This can also add a layer of protection should they try to search you online.

 

man waits at a bright lit up intersection carrying a bouquet of flowers

Before Meeting For The First Time

Do Some Background Checks

1. A quick search can calm a variety of anxieties. There are many publicly accessible community sites that can verify registered offenders among other things. Services such as Kiwi Searches, provide a personal public record search engine where you can verify if your dates are who they say they are.

Ask for a Recent Photo

2. It’s never a bad idea to ask for a recent photo, especially if they do not have any on their dating profile. This can be verified against the current profile pictures on the dating profile (if there are any) or social media sites. This can give you some piece of mind if you choose to meet in that they are who they say they are.

Pick a Public Place For Your First Meeting.

3. It’s never a good idea to have the first meeting at someone’s apartment. A cafe or restaurant is good because other people will be around to make it less intimate, relieving some of the tension. Never meet someone privately until you really get to know the person.

Let Someone Else Know That You are Meeting a Stranger

4. Let a close friend or family member know that you’re going to meet a stranger. Tell them where you’ll be and for how long.

Have a Friend Check on You Throughout the Date

5. Have a close friend or family member check on you throughout the date, plan a check in time in advance, or follow up after your return from the date to make sure a trusted individual knows your whereabouts.

Give a Friend Your Date’s Information

6. Give as much detail as you can. From how they described themselves on their dating profile to what they’re wearing on the current date. The more information that you provide the better.
Bonus Tip: If you can, share the license plate for your date’s car as well.

Take You Own Car, a Cab or Public Transit to the First Date

7. Never allow your date to drive you on the first date. By allowing your date to drive you, you are trusting a complete stranger with your life. Finding your own mode of transportation also gives you some control if you would like to end the date early.

Always Remain Alert

8. Alcohol can seem to help lift the edge when your put in a new situation, but remember alcohol can impact your judgement. Remain alert and don’t overdo it.

Be Internet Savvy

9. If this perfect person and you are enjoying long chats, flirty emails, and fun texts but, for some reason, can’t quite meet up, it should raise a red flag. Be savvy, stay on guard and ask questions. It’s better to ask now, than later.

Avoid Becoming a “Professional Online Dater”

10. It’s great that you are getting so many matches and have gone on 4 dates in the last week, but are you looking to make a connection? Don’t get caught in the cycle of instant gratification just because there are more people still interested.

If It Doesn’t Feel Right, DON’T GO!

11. Trust your instinct, if it doesn’t feel right, it isn’t.

Taxi driving down a street with many lit up signs and billboards.

Heading Out on Your First Date

Speak Up!

1. If your date makes a suggestion for a restaurant or movie that you know you’re not fond of, say something. First dates can be an awkward exchange of suggestions before you find something you both are comfortable with, but the more comfortable you are – the smoother the date will go.

Don’t Wear Anything You Can’t Breathe, Drink, Walk or Talk in

2. As good as that skin tight mini dress looks on you, if your uncomfortable in your own clothing you will notice and so will everyone else. First dates are awkward enough, don’t put yourself in a position to fail before you even give yourself a chance.

Ask Questions

3. You know what people like? Attention. If you seem curious about the person sitting across from you, they probably will be too. Keep things light by asking about hobbies, family, or work, saving the heavier questions (politics, beliefs, religion) for when your both more comfortable with one another.

Listen.

4. You can’t just ask a bunch of questions and then not listen to the answer. If you have been talking over text and email for the past 3 week, remember some of the details of what was said. If you forget, it will seem as though you didn’t care enough to try too.

Mind Your Body Language

5. If your legs are crossed and your hand is over your mouth, unconsciously we think you are hiding something. Sit up straight, lean in closer, and keep your hands within eye shot. The more engaged you look, the more engaging you’ll be.
Bonus Tip: Remember to be yourself, no matter what happens don’t sacrifice who you are just to make someone like you.

For tips on dating a specific personality type like an Introvert check out Sebastian’s article here.