“A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.”
The practice of online dating has become so mainstream, that many women disregard common safety guidelines around meeting strangers. They assume it’s perfectly safe, and measurements for personal and financial security tend to go out the window.
The people you meet online are usually going to be perfectly normal people. At most, they may lie about their age or weight. But not everyone you meet online is harmless, or honest.
Remember, these are not people you know in real life. No matter how much you think you know them, there are going to be things they can hide, that a face to face meeting would reveal.
If you’re entering the foray of online dating, good for you! The following is not meant to discourage you. Instead, to provide some tips for staying safe and keeping vulnerable information private while dating online. The safer you’re able to be, the more open you can be with those great people you’re destined to find online. Hopefully, you never run into these online dating red flags. But if you do, you’ll know exactly how to handle it, and you won’t waste time, energy, or money!
Here are a few common methods that scammers use to take advantage of people trying to meet that special someone through the Internet.
The Sweetheart Scam
The “sweetheart” scam usually targets the older generation of internet users, but can also target anyone looking for love online. There are several versions of this scam, but it usually runs like this:
You sign up for an online dating site, and your profile is targeted. The person is typically young, good-looking, charming. They become very enamored very quickly. Often, they share personal information long before you have known each other intimately. This they see as a gesture of trust. They may report to being very successful and very wealthy. They may also be in another country.
Eventually, their luck will turn. They will start talking about the financial problems they are suffering. They’re in trouble. They aren’t able to see you in person. Or at least, not unless you send them money. By now, they will have you chatting privately, away from the security of the online dating site or app you are using. Probably skype or a private messenger, that allows you to send secure information, like account transfers and banking information.
The Catfish Scam
Catfishing is very similar to the sweetheart scam. The catfisher will hide most aspects of their real identity. They use stolen images to impersonate someone else, either on the dating site, or on social media, or both. Like a sweetheart scammer, they will progress the relationship quickly. They often pretend to be wealthy and successful.
Because they’re hiding their identity, they must concoct elaborate lies as to why they’re not available whenever the opportunity arises to show their face. They are probably someone who “doesn’t use social media.”, when you ask for contact. They “travel a lot for work.”, whenever you ask if you can meet in real life. If they have a Facebook or Twitter account, it’s probably newer and has only a handful of followers.
Trafficking and Abuse
Some scams are after your money, but some may be downright dangerous. If there’s a big age gap between you and your pursuer, or they want to move quickly to offline contact, you may be dealing with someone who means you physical harm. This is especially true if this person wants to keep you “secret” or wants you to do the same.
So…How Do You Date Safely Online?
How do you avoid the danger and pitfalls of online dating, so you can embrace this new chapter of your life? Some essential safety tips:
1. Make Google Image Search Your Friend
If you’re curious whether someone’s profile and pictures are real, a reverse google image search will reveal if they’re being used anywhere else, and even take you back to the original source.
2. Use Only The Major Dating Sites
Every dating site will have its share of creeps. But if you’re choosing a major company that has its contact information posted, you’re more likely to get a secure and professional site, and you can have them look into any suspicious behavior for you.
3. Beware Anyone Pushing For A Meeting Before You’re Ready
It’s not a good idea to meet someone you’ve spoken to online straight away. But you should try and arrange something where you can see their face before you meet them in person. For example, a webcam.
4. Before You Go Anywhere To Meet, Tell A Friend
Once you do decide to meet, make sure to tell more than one person where you’ll be going and how long you expect to be. Have someone arrange to text you. Some apps even allow you to turn GPS on after a period of inactivity. Remember, no matter how well you think you know someone, you’re still meeting a stranger for the first time.
5. Never Give Out Financial Information
Never give out personal financial information online, either through the dating site or over private messaging services or text. Beware anyone asking you for money, especially before meeting you in person.
6. Get Familiar With Social Media
Many major dating sites offer links to social media as part of someone’s profile. Get to know them. A person could still lie on social media, so look at how many photos are posted, and how many friends the person has. If the profile looks new, it might be a fake.
Online dating is a part of modern life. Whether you use a site specifically for dating or meet someone through social media, it’s important to remember that you’re talking to someone you don’t know.
Though online dating constitutes more than half of all relationships in the 21st century, it should still be approached with caution. Abusers and scam artists hide among all the perfectly normal profiles. But there are always tell-tale signs. Keep your eyes open for them, and you’re sure to have a great time meeting new people online.