The good folks at the Online Dating Association have compiled a great resource on how to keep safe when online dating below. Don’t worry though, horror stories are rare – most people have a wonderful time meting new people and finding love. But, it pays to be careful…
Creating Your Online Dating Profile
Protect your identity and personal information. Most sites will encourage you to create a User Name that does not contain your surname and doesn’t let everyone know who you are.
Remember sexually explicit, provocative or controversial user names could attract the wrong kind of attention.
Stay in control when it comes to how and when you share information and don’t share personal details until you are ready. It is also best to avoid including contact information such as your email address, home address, where you work or your phone numbers in your profile.
When it comes to pictures, as a general rule, only share images that you wouldn’t mind others seeing.
Getting To Know New People And Protecting Yourself
When getting to know people, take your time and trust your instincts.
When you are having a conversation online think whether you would be saying and sharing the same things if you were meeting the other person face-to-face. Services give you the time and a level of anonymity. Use it to get to know people at a pace you feel comfortable with. It is totally sensible to be cautious about how much information you share at first and even over time. Always take a common sense approach when talking to someone new.
Dating sites often offer mail and chat services so you can get to know people in a safe and controlled environment. Make the most of their platforms and the added security it gives you. Take care when providing contact details to people who say their subscription is about to end. A common behaviour of scammers is to take the conversation away from the safety of the dating site as quickly as possible.
Do Your Own Research
Online dating sites work hard to moderate profiles, however it is always worth doing some research of your own before meeting someone for the first time. Try searching for social media profiles or do a web search to see if there are any records or images of the person online. For example check their LinkedIn or run a Google Image search to check any photos provided.
Be Aware Of The Warning Signs – Scammers
Although the vast majority of individuals who use online dating services are honest about the information they give, as with all social networking sites, there may be some exceptions. Dating sites, the police and others work to keep scammers off sites. Scammers want one thing and one thing only – money.
Here are a few examples of behaviours to watch out for:
Irregular behaviour – If the person seems vague, tries to take the conversation offline, has an unlikely story or acts inappropriately, then proceed with caution and don’t hesitate to report them.
Requests for money -– Some scammers will look to gain your sympathy with emotional stories of ill relatives or financial difficulties or urgent job opportunities and travel needs. Look out! Any request for money at any point should ring an alarm bell; however sad, urgent, compelling or heart-wrenching the story.
Investment opportunities – Beware of anyone offering you ways to get rich quick putting your money into investment schemes. You are online to meet people and make new relationships: not to act as a charity or in search of investments. Any offer that’s “too good to be true” is to be avoided.
The ODA, member companies, the police and online protection agencies share the following advice about scammers:
- Never ever respond to a request for money
- Never give out bank account or personal details
- Beware of a sob story or fantastic too good to be true business deals
- Watch out for profiles that immediately tug on heart strings such as ill relatives or those requiring money urgently
- Don’t let the passing of time and some sense of closeness to someone online cloud your judgment. These sorts of pitches may take time to come out in messages. That does not make them any less of a lie.
- Be wary of long distance and overseas relationships
- Be wary of profiles from foreign countries
- Be careful about the images you share, never share anything you wouldn’t mind your family or others seeing
- Don’t ever feel responsible silly or scared if you think there is a problem. You welfare and that of others comes first
- Always ask a friend – if they advise you against the relationship listen to them
- Report anyone who is acting suspiciously to the dating site you are using
Be smart and stay safe. Going on a date with someone is new and exciting. Although you’ve probably got to know the person better during your conversations, it’s still worth taking note of the following tips to ensure you stay safe when dating and especially on a first date:
- Let friends or family members know where you’re going and when you’ll be home and keep them regularly updated
- Meet in a public place with lots of people around, don’t be tempted to meet at your date’s house
- Use your own transportation to get to and from the date
- Watch your alcohol intake and don’t leave your drink unattended
- Keep your purse, wallet, phone, and personal items with you
- Take your mobile phone with you
- Leave at any time if you feel uncomfortable, remember your safety comes first
Reporting A Concern Or Problem
If someone you are talking to is making you feel uncomfortable cease your communication with them and report them to the dating service provider or the police immediately. All ODA members have reporting arrangements to deal with any concerns you may have.
As an industry we are keen to encourage anyone who has experienced inappropriate behaviour to seek support from the police or public and charitable bodies who are experts in this area. Please see the links below:
- Action Fraud is the national reporting agency for fraud routing cases to the Police locally and nationally and issuing crime numbers.
- SARC offer victims of sexual crime an integrated service where victims can receive medical care, psychological counselling, legal advice and other support, all in one place from professionally trained staff.