These days, online dating or app dating is really just…dating?
Approximately 44.2 million Americans are into online dating, and 26.6 M use the apps just on their Smartphones, according to Statista.
It’s SO commonplace at this point that people don’t even feel the need to disguise the aclaimed, “How we met,” story to family and friends.
“We met on a dating app!” (Insert Tinder, Bumble, Hinge, OKCupid, etc.,)
“No way, us too!”
This in many ways can be considered a good thing.
Who doesn’t love love, amirite?
But part of the problem with the widespread normalization of dating apps is that we have also started to negate the danger they can cause.
At one point in time, meeting on ~the internet~ was considered very risky.
And while a lot has been accomplished to ensure it’s safer than it once was (account verification, security teams, etc.,) it still is dangerous.
With popular shows like The Tinder Swindler dominating the Netflix charts in the last year, it’s clear that fraud, manipulation, harassment and hard crime can still take place on these apps.
There are signs you should look out for, and steps you should take to safely engage in online dating, and we’ve got you covered.
1. Guard your personal info on your app profiles.
Do not reveal too much about yourself, like:
- Home address
- Work address
- Relative’s names
- Where you are at the moment
- Social security number
- Car’s plate number
2. Do not use the same photos on your dating apps and social media accounts.
Treat your Dating Sites Account as a business account.
I know that may seem extreme, but it’s true.
I strongly advise against linking your Social Media Accounts like Facebook or Instagram. It will be easier for someone to find you on social media, where specifics about your personal life are also posted.
So even if your dating profile doesn’t offer too much private information, they can find it on those social media profiles. And even if you don’t “like” or “match” with that person, they can then contact you by other means without your consent.
3. Do not connect with suspicious profiles.
When you look at someone’s profile, how do you usually identify what’s fake from what’s not?
Trust your gut.
Do their photos seem overly altered, edited or even photo-shopped? Does it look like the same person in every photo? Does any of their information seem strangely written or cryptic?
Just exercise caution. When it comes to dating apps, it actually helps not to give people the benefit of the doubt. Protect yourself first.
4. Research their social media presence before the date.
So you’ve found someone you may like and you’re considering a date or long-term conversation with them. That’s great! But make you pause to get a little intel.
The oldest self-protection trick in the book– research.
The more you can confirm and actually know about the people you’re interacting with on dating apps, the better.
Find out about your potential date on social media. Maybe you know your date’s social media name, or just try to search them up and match the information from their dating profile to their social media account. Consistency is the sign of their genuineness.
Check for their profile on LinkedIn or Facebook. Double-check they are who they claim to be.
Run their name through a quick Google search, double-check their name doesn’t come up in any local crime beat coverage.
You don’t have to dive into their great Aunt’s Facebook page from five years ago, too much intel can sour the “getting to know each other” portion of actual dating.
But you should definitely do some due diligence as you start to want to trust this person more.
5. Above all, watch for red flags, and report suspicious users.
They say that you will feel something in your bones when something seems not right. Trust that, listen to those bones!
Here are a few common red flags to look out for:
– They claim to live, work, or be from somewhere that you later find to not be true. They lie about their age or education. Really any time you catch them lying, that’s a red flag.
– They seem “too good to be true” and even if you don’t have proof that their details are false, you get a gut feeling that they’re not telling the truth or strongly embellishing. Listen to your intuition.
-They pressure you to give out your contact details and insist on contacting each other out of the dating site before you’re comfortable.
-They tell you about an emergency or claim they really need help. This could be a financial scam, and is often not a good sign.
-They claim they are recently widowed and have been left with children to take care of.
-They don’t give specific details to specific questions.
-They ask you to give them specific directions to your house, or your exact work address, to be able to send you gifts of flowers. Just no…
-They ask you strange questions about your finances, profession or assets.
-They emotionally manipulate, love-bomb or over-flatter you. Look out for anyone who seems aggressively “into you” before really knowing you.
If these behaviors are apparent, you may report them right away:
— You realize it’s clearly a fake profile (especially impersonation)
— They send you illicit or foul messages, or otherwise make you feel harassed in any way
— They act threatening or intimidating
— They asks for nude photographs
— They pleads for financial assistance
— They attempt to sell you products or services
How to report an online dating scammer
Now, let’s just say you do find yourself in a situation where you trusted someone and either disclosed too much information, lent them money or otherwise find yourself in a compromised situation.
You can, and should, report it right away.
If you think it’s a scam. Report it to the FTC at ReportFraud.flc.gov. Give the office facilitating this investigation the necessary data you know, and need.
At the end of the day, remember to take care of yourself.
Dating should be fun, and often times it is! But it also has to be safe, and you deserve to feel comfortable and protected as you seek out someone special.
Take these steps, exercise caution and above all else, trust your gut.