Online Dating Safety: Your Guide to Looking for Love Securely
As looking for love online becomes the norm, there’s increasing awareness of the importance of online dating safety. At eharmony, we take our users’ safety seriously – our Trust and Safety Team has over 20 years’ experience in doing just that – but that doesn’t mean there aren’t things you can do to help. Let’s look at the most useful online dating safety tips as well as common dating red flags and scams.
Online dating has risks but also benefits
People choose to look for love online for a reason – not only is it incredibly convenient, it’s also a great way for people in places with smaller dating pools, or who have niche interests, to find a partner. Approximately half of all Americans under 30 have used an online dating app1, but it does come with risks – it’s far easier to be someone else online than in real life, not to mention the risk of identity theft or phishing. However, just because online dating safety is a concern doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go there. Pay attention to these dating safety rules and your odds of a bad experience will be vastly reduced.
Top tips for online dating safety
Online dating safety doesn’t have to be difficult or complicated – just be careful not to let your emotions cloud good judgement. It’s always better to start out overly cautious – you can always decide to reveal more about yourself once you’ve established that the other person is trustworthy. Some tips for better online dating safety as you look for love:
Choose a reputable platform
Safe dating sites make all the difference and a good dating site values its users’ safety and privacy. Of the major sites and apps, eharmony is a great candidate – our Trust and Safety team works hard to make sure that your personal data is protected. Additionally, you can always report suspicious matches if you feel something doesn’t add up.
Use a strong password and guard your personal information
Use a long, complex password – or better yet, a password manager – to make sure nobody else can access your account. You should also be wary of logging into websites on unsecured networks – use your phone’s data rather than public WiFi when you’re out and about. You should also be careful what information you share with people – you’d be surprised how little is needed to steal your identity or otherwise scam you.
Watch for signs a profile is genuine and trustworthy
Another key part of online dating safety is being sure you’re talking to a real person. Check their profile – sparse or incomplete entries are often a sign it’s fake. Pictures also offer clues as to whether someone is catfishing – fake profiles will have images of celebrities or photos taken from stock photo sites. Someone who’s genuine, apart from having a complete profile and more than one picture, will also be a far better communicator – they’ll be consistent not only in the language they use but the stories they tell.
Be sure to communicate safely
Dating apps have their own inbuilt messaging systems for a reason – they’re much safer than something like WhatsApp or Snapchat because they don’t require you to disclose additional information, such as your phone number. Plus, you can immediately report suspicious behavior to customer service. Which is why a key component of online dating safety, at least in the initial stages of your relationship, is to stick to communicating only on the app’s official messaging system. Once you’ve built enough of a relationship that you feel like you can trust them with your email or phone number, you can switch over to more traditional calls, texts, or emails.
Tell your friends and family
It can be tempting to keep your love life a secret, especially in the early stages of dating – but resist! A key component of online dating safety is others knowing that you’re seeing someone. Plus, someone who isn’t invested in the relationship can be a useful sounding board. They’ll be more objective, which means they’ll be more likely to see dating red flags you might have missed. Even if you don’t want to tell the whole world you’re dating, you should let a friend know just in case.
Get consent and set boundaries
Regardless of where your relationship happens – online, over the phone, in real life, or a mixture of all three – consent is key, and so are boundaries. Always ask for consent, even if it feels unnecessary or awkward – especially online, where tone is harder to read, it’s always better to be clear you’re both on the same page. Another part of online dating safety is also to figure out what your boundaries are and communicate them clearly, as well as respect any boundaries your date may express. If they don’t, or try and do anything you haven’t consented to, that’s a signal to walk away immediately.
Report inappropriate behavior
If someone is crossing boundaries, making you uncomfortable, or acting suspiciously, you should report them to the dating app’s customer service. Even if they don’t get suspended or banned, a history of bad behavior can help establish that it’s a pattern if they do it again, meaning that future complaints have a chance of being taken more seriously.
Meet safely offline
Maybe you trust them enough to meet in person, but online dating safety doesn’t stop when the date goes offline. Make sure your first few dates are in public and that you have safe transport to and back. You should let someone know you’ll be on a date, and what your date looks like. You could even arrange for a friend or family member to call or text an hour or so in case you need to bail early. You should also always have your bag and drink in easy view and never leave either unattended.
Common online dating scams to watch out for
While the odds of meeting an online dating scammer can be lowered by following the tips in this article, they’re never going to be zero. Some of the most common scams include catfishing, faking an emergency so the victim will send money, or inducing the victim to go to a site that will harvest their data.
How do you identify a scammer? In addition to the tips above, be wary of anyone who flatters you excessively or moves too fast, who doesn’t seem to exist outside of a dating site, or whose life sounds like a soap opera.
Red flags to be aware of
While most people on dating sites are genuinely there to make connections, here are some online dating red flags you should keep in mind:
- Inconsistent information: they may be a scammer out for your money, a liar, or just a flake. Whichever it is, stay far away
- Aggressive behavior: If they’re threatening online, imagine how much worse they’ll be in person
- Refusal to come on video chat: They may not want to be identified, or simply not look like the person in their photos
- Demands for money: Regardless of how good their story is, you should always refuse and back away
Need more support, or want to learn more about online dating safety?
Luckily, there are several ways to educate yourself about online dating safety. RAINN for example offers a basic overview of how to stay safe while dating on the internet2.
Want to report more threatening or criminal behavior?
- In the US, you need the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Centre.
- In the UK, talk to Action Fraud,
- in Canada you can get in touch with Canadian Centre of Cyber Security,
- while Australian victims can get in touch with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.
If you live somewhere else, it’s likely your government also has some kind of cybersecurity watchdog you can contact.
Staying safe online is just a matter of paying attention
As long as you take common-sense online dating safety precautions, it’s really no more dangerous than traditional dating. Still a little wary? At eharmony, every user fills in a detailed questionnaire, meaning that the odds of them being serious are far higher. Plus, our Trust and Safety team is always on the job, making sure that you have a safe, secure experience when looking for love. So don’t wait – sign up for eharmony and find someone who shares your values today.