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Online Dating Tips To Keep You Safe
Updated on: February 2024
Written by: Maria Spears, M.Ed., CPPC
The dating game has completely changed since Match.com launched its online dating site in 1995. Since then, dozens of new sites have emerged targeting every kind of dater, including those specifically catering to people over 50 like SilverSingles and OurTime. Meeting someone this way can be fun and exciting but can also come with emotional and financial risk if you skip over the dos and don’ts of online dating. Here’s how to keep yourself safe.
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Don’ts: Steps To Prevent Online Dating Scams
In the online world, it’s easy to feel that you know someone well, but you really don’t. It’s safest to regard someone you met online as a stranger and be cautious about what you share with them.
- Don’t send money or anything of value.
- Don’t share valuable personal information like account passwords, social security numbers, bank card numbers, PINs, or verification codes.
- Don’t send intimate photos or videos.
Just like spam email and texts, online scammers may try to get access to your financial information through purchases on fake websites or by infecting your tech with malware to access bank and credit card numbers and passwords.
- Don’t open websites, apps, games, files, or other links.
Another tactic of scammers is to give the appearance that they are part of your larger social circle and are familiar with you and your lifestyle. They do this based on what you’ve told them or by combing through your social media posts and making them seem familiar because they know so much about you. You can take a few steps to make this harder for them.
- Don’t accept friend requests on social media from people you don’t know.
- Don’t share personal identifying information (last name, home address, names of family members, birthdate, where you work) until you’ve been able to verify details of who they say they are.
- Don’t reveal exploitable personal information about your health, your financial situation or income, divorce settlement, or assets.
- Don’t forget to use the privacy settings on all social media and online accounts to maximize your security.
Do’s: How To Date Online Safely
There are also steps you can take to make the online dating experience a good one. It starts from the very beginning when you pick which site to use.
- Do stick to well-known, well-established online dating sites that take their members’ security and safety seriously and have protocols for reporting unwanted behavior.
- Do double check the URL of the website you’re looking at to make sure it’s the legitimate site and not a decoy. Fake dating sites are out there!
- Do verify the website using this checklist to be extra-sure.
Once you’ve picked a site and set up your profile, be choosy when assessing potential matches.
- Do match only with verified profiles on the dating apps.
- Do skip over profiles that seem suspicious or your gut tells you something is off.
- Do ignore, block, and report strangers who send texts or direct messages (especially if the messages are complimentary and flattering) on an online dating site or directly to your social media personal page.
When you’re ready to connect with a person you’ve matched with, take your time and let the relationship evolve slowly. Spend some time getting to know the person. Even then, make sure they are who they say they are.
- Do ask questions and look for inconsistent answers that don’t match what they’re saying or doing.
- Do independently verify what they say about themselves through searches on Google, LinkedIn, or social media.
- Do conduct your own detective work using reverse image searches using Google and reverse phone lookup tools to verify a person’s identity.
- Do check that the same image isn’t appearing across a variety of online profiles but under different names.
Stay proactive to keep your online dating experience a safe and enjoyable one. The dating apps all have information and tools to keep yourself safe, avoid theft, and report fake profiles and scammers. Build these checks into your online dating experience.
- Do review the safety features of an online dating app or social media site you’re using.
- Do regularly review the latest research and articles on dating scams, especially safety information provided by the dating app you’re using. There is up to date information at ftc.gov/romancescams and https://www.bbb.org/all/romance_scams.
- Do change your account passwords for all online accounts on a regular basis.
Enlist your friends and family to help you out. It can be easy to miss signs of fraud or unsavory behavior. And, once you’ve connected with someone and your emotions become involved, it’s difficult to evaluate a person objectively.
- Do talk to someone you trust about a new love interest.
- Do take the concerns of friends or family seriously and if they see red flags in a person’s behavior.
How To Report Scammers
Everyone can do their part to help protect themselves and others by reporting online dating scams. If you experience any of these things, report it.
- All suspicious or unwanted behavior including requests for financial assistance, personal information, or photos (especially intimate photos).
- Harassing, threatening or offensive messages, or attempts to intimidate you in any way.
- Profiles that appear to be fake.
- Attempts to sell you products or services.
Take screen shots of the accounts and correspondence and provide the images with your report. Report suspicious profiles or messages to the dating app or social media platform.
When looking for love online, it’s important to balance being cautious with all the benefits of being in a relationship. The good news is there are many more singles than ever before in their 50s, 60s and 70s looking for a companion or life partner. Paying attention to the dos and don’ts of online dating can make the dating experience safer and ultimately, keep the focus on meeting the people who are genuinely looking for a loving relationship.