Online Dating Scammers Are Not Romantic
Have you been thinking about joining an online dating site? Maybe traditional methods haven’t worked for you in the past or you just want to try something new for fun? No matter what the reason, online dating can be a great choice. It’s fun, easy, and gives you a large pool of prospects in the palm of your hand. However, many of us are forced to wonder if online dating is safe.
The statistics that coincide with dating scams could make the average individual a little apprehensive about trying online dating. For example, individuals have lost a combined total of approximately $1 billion to online romance scams since 2015. The truth is, these numbers reflect a growing number of individuals who fail to protect their privacy while using these sites. By taking the right precautions, you can safely enjoy your experience with online dating without fear of falling victim to a cyber scam.
We took a look at the four main steps in a beginner’s online dating journey and provided you with a few tips to keep yourself and your data safe while swiping away.
4 Steps to Safe Online Dating
Step 1: Getting Out There
You’ve decided to join an online dating site – that’s great! You’re likely wondering what the first step in finding the right platform is. You’ll want to start by deciding which site will meet your needs and give you the best chance at finding love. It’s also important to consider which site will best protect your data privacy.
Carefully read the terms and conditions of the user agreement before signing up. Even conducting an online search for reviews of the site can be a useful tool in the decision-making process. You’ll also want to decide whether you’re interested in a paid or free service. While free services offer a higher volume of users to increase your chances of meeting your special someone, they also increase your risk of interacting with a cybercriminal on the site with the wrong intentions. Always be cautious, as 1 in 10 dating profiles that have been created are fake.
Step 2: Profile Do’s and Don’ts
Dating sites require you to input a great deal of personal information as it makes the matchmaking process easier. Be cautious, however, that this information is being properly secured and protected. You can start by checking to see if the sharing settings are set to private or public. It’s best to change these settings to private if they aren’t already. Also, make sure that you are not opting into any advertisement promotions that would use your photo or information.
When selecting your photo, of course, you’ll want to choose your best one. Just make sure that there are no clues to your specific location within the photo. It doesn’t take long for a cybercriminal to recognize details of a picture and track down a user’s identity, social profiles, and potentially more confidential information. It’s as simple as using a reverse image search engine to locate other sites the photo has been shared on.
For the details of your profile, start by choosing a username and password that have not been used on other accounts before. In your bio, refrain from posting any personally identifiable information that could lead a cybercriminal straight to you. This includes birthdates, phone number, address, information regarding your family, or the location where you work.
Step 3: Interacting With Other Users
Remember that everyone is a stranger until you officially meet them. It might seem harmless to give your phone number or email address out in an initial conversation, but it’s always better to wait as long as possible, at least until you feel you’ve built a sense of trust or have met them in person. Keeping your conversations exclusively on the dating site is a wise move. Particularly because most platforms have an option for flagging inappropriate messages or potentially fake profiles. You could also set up a specific email address or google voice number for all date related communications. This can help maintain your privacy should things end between one another.
Stay alert when interacting with other users for common warning signs of catfishing and other scams. Catfishing occurs when an individual poses as someone else to lure unsuspecting users to fall for their scams after building a relationship with them. Thankfully, there are ways to catch on to this. You’ll begin to notice that they will constantly make up excuses for being unable to meet in person or talk on the phone. Reverse image search their picture. If their photo comes up with results with different names, this should be an immediate red flag.
Other scams to be on a high alert for:
- Financial Scams – If someone you’ve been communicating with messages you that they just had a major emergency or family crisis and need financial assistance, be concerned. Never send money to an individual you do not know. This is a common scam that many fall victim to each year.
- Viruses & Malware – Be cautious with any link that another user sends you. It could lead to harmful malware that might infect your computer with a virus and provide the criminal with the information they are seeking. Installing a virtual private network software on your mobile device can help protect you and your profile from these fake users and bots.
- Blackmail – If you are talking to someone over the phone or via a webcam, be careful of your choice of words and actions during these calls. Someone on the other side of the computer could be recording your entire conversation and could use it as blackmail against you. If you ever begin to feel uncomfortable, disconnect immediately.
Step 4: Meeting in Person
You’ve now reached the point in your progressing relationship where you’d both mutually like to meet in person – that’s wonderful! First dates are fun, exciting, and even a little nerve-wracking at times. The best way to enjoy your first date is to keep a few personal safety tips in mind. Stay aware of your surroundings and watch for potential red flags throughout the date.
Personal safety tips to keep in mind:
- Always meet in a public location, preferably one that you know fairly well.
- Take a friend with you and have them watch from a distance or suggest going on a double date!
- If you do choose to go alone, notify someone of your plans for the date so they will know in case they can’t get a hold of you.
- Never leave your drink unattended on any occasion.
- Some bars even have a special drink you can “order” that alerts a bartender when you are feeling uncomfortable or may require help.
Though there are risks associated with dating online, taking the right precautions can help keep you safe and give you the best shot at love. Everyone deserves to find their special someone and it’s been proven that modern dating techniques can be extremely successful.