Over 40 million Americans use dating apps — they are extremely popular. But how can you guarantee your safety when background checks aren't required to use them? While there are elements that are out of your control, you can still stay smart and increase your chances of having a safe and positive experience. Read more to learn about how to stay safe while using dating apps.
What to Watch Out For Online
These are a few ways to keep yourself safe online:
- Strategically use pictures. Avoid using the same profile pictures you use for your other social media accounts. If you do use the same pictures, anyone on the app who sees your profile could reverse image search your picture and find you there.
- Use caution when it comes to other profiles. Be suspicious with accounts that do not have pictures, as well as with accounts that only have one picture. Make sure to check out any social media accounts they have linked to their dating app profiles to be sure they are not fake. In general, the less information you have about the other person, the more suspicious you should be about meeting up with them or sharing more information about yourself with them.
- Research the person online (if you can). If they have told you their name, you can look at their social media and look through it to make sure they are a real person. If possible, try to see if you have any mutual friends and ask them about the person before you meet them.
- Block or report suspicious profiles. In the interest of keeping everyone on the app you are using safe, make sure to report any profile that you find suspicious. You can do this anonymously before or after your match with the person.
- Take your time with people on apps. Make sure you move at your pace and slowly get to know people on the app before you meet in person. Someone who writes with a lot of spelling and grammar mistakes but says they are very educated might be faking their identity. If you feel at all pressured to meet before you’d like or to give away information, that should be a red flag.
- Add them on social media only after you trust them. Your social media page can tell people where you live, who your family members are, what you do for work, and much more. Only add people you meet on apps as friends once you feel confident that they are who they say they are. Again, if you feel at all pressured by them, this should be a red flag.
Some common ways that scammers or other ill-intending people attempt to manipulate others online are:
- Asking for money usually due to a sudden crisis
- Saying they live in the United States but are traveling, living, or working in another country
- Claiming they are recently widowed but have kids
- Leaving the app and then coming back with a different name
- Avoiding full answers to specific questions
- Being too romantic or sweet early on in your interactions
- Pressuring you to give away personal information like where you live or your phone number
- Asking for your home or work address to send you presents
- Telling larger-than-life stories which contradict themselves
Some things that you can report in the apps are:
- Requests for money or even photos
- Accounts operated by those who turn out to be minors
- Inappropriate or harassing messages
- Threats or intimidation
- Any sort of fake profile
- Someone trying to get you to buy something or a service
What to Watch Out For In-Person
When meeting with someone from a dating app, consider doing the following:
- Meet in a public place. For your first meeting, always arrange to meet in a place where there will be a lot of other people. A cafe, a restaurant, or a shopping center are all good examples of safe places to meet.
- Save your conversations and their profile on your phone. If you block or report someone on a dating app, it’s likely that you will not see your past interactions or their profile again. Should something negative happen to you on the date or you need to report something, having a backup of your interactions can be very helpful.
- Have an exit strategy. Plan your route home before you go on a date. Know if you are either driving or taking public transport. Let your friends know where and when you are meeting up.
- Don’t be afraid of being impolite. Trust your gut. If you feel uncomfortable or at all suspicious, leave immediately. Don’t second guess yourself, especially when your safety is at stake.
- Watch your drug and alcohol intake. Try to maintain a clear mind — avoid drinking too much or taking drugs on or before your date. Getting drunk can change your perception of things and cause you to miss details that you otherwise wouldn’t.