Over 40 percent of Americans today are using online dating and the industry itself is estimated to hit $12 billion by 2020. This is evidence enough of the staggering number of people looking for love online. With technology transforming our social interactions in ways unimaginable, the appeal of online dating to more and more people doesn’t come as a surprise.
But together with the ease and comfort of connecting people, technology has also made it easier to hide, impersonate or fabricate identities. From sexual harassment and catfishing to blackmailing and financial fraud, the risks attached to online dating have escalated with its popularity and appeal, leaving more room for online manipulation and exploitation. According to the Pew Research Centre, 12% of internet users have faced online stalking or harassment while 4% have reportedly faced physical danger. Statistics by Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) in Washington DC reveals over 800,000 victims of cyberstalking each year.
Whatever the dangers may be, protecting yourself from predators and conmen should undoubtedly be a top priority for modern-day dating. So, here are 5 expert tips to ensure your safety during that all-important process of finding love.
- Do your homework
A University of Wisconsin-Madison study shows that over 80% of people fabricate their physical details on online dating sites. That is a staggering number by any standards. This is why uncovering as much as possible with a background search could go a long way in protecting you from any imminent dangers.
You can carry out reverse email lookups and reverse phone lookups with people search sites like Nuwber. A reverse image lookup can be done using Google. You can also scan through their social media profiles to uncover their social interactions.
While this may at times seem intrusive and an invasion of privacy, the growing concerns over dating crimes provide a justifiable reason to take adequate precautions. As much as technology is used to enable criminal and predatory activities, it can also be used to effectively protect yourself from these very threats.
- Be careful what you divulge
While you are carrying out a background search on your potential date, chances are that he will be attempting the same on you. Studies have revealed that personal details shared on dating sites have been used for reputation damage, account hacking, leaking or stealing personal data, blackmailing as well as to track down individuals in person.
Since there is no guarantee of their real intentions, it is always wise to keep your guards up to ensure your safety until you progress in your relationship. This means divulging limited information of yourself until you get to know the person well. Be careful not to reveal your last name, your location, where you work, your age, date of birth or any other information that may help get access to your personal life.
Photographs with telling details such as landmarks near your home, office or places that you frequently visit could also help identify your personal information. Remember that online image searches can link through to your social media platforms and can easily allow anyone to track you down. Therefore, avoid sharing photographs that are already posted online or those with family, friends, and colleagues to avoid revealing unnecessary details of your personal life.
Also, do not register for online dating sites using your social media accounts to prevent linking details back to your online profiles. This will not only expose too much of your personal life but will also allow anyone to identify and dig into your life through your circle of friends and family.
Restrict conversations to the dating site’s messaging system, and use a separate phone or a Google Voice number to avoid giving out your personal phone number.
- Do an online background check of yourself
As strange as this may sound, performing an online search to check what is already available about you online is an important step to assure your safety.
Carefully analyze the top 20 information displayed under the search, so that you can gain a good understanding of how much of your personal life is already revealed online for anyone to indulge in. Identify any excessive details and get them removed and adjust the privacy settings of your social media profiles. This is a good practice to adopt in general to protect your identity and to ensure safety whether you are dating or not.
- Share with someone close
Keeping a close friend or family member informed about anyone of interest you are pursuing through an online dating site will go a long way in protecting you from any possible dangers. Share his name, contact number, online dating profile and any other information that you find interesting.
Take further precautions before meeting your date to ensure that someone close to you is aware of your plans and whereabouts. Let them know of your meeting place, time, how you are traveling and when you expect to return. Once you reach your destination, send a message to keep them informed and share any last-minute change of plans such as a venue change.
- Plan for a safe dating experience
When it comes to that point where you are finally ready to meet him, there are some important precautionary steps to take beforehand.
Ensure that you meet in a public place and use separate transportation until you get to know him well. Casually let your date know that you have already shared details of your meet-up with a few friends and family. This should deter him from any concealed motives.
Be cautious not to divulge too much. Carefully steer conversations away from personal details to avoid oversharing, and keep dialogues firmly centered on general topics. And if you feel uncomfortable at any point, don’t be afraid to end the conversation.
While all these precautions may seem daunting at times, the ultimate goal is to ensure your safety so that you could relax and enjoy the dating experience. Setting these ground rules will help put you at ease and give you the peace of mind needed to spend quality time getting to know your date while protecting yourself from unsolicited advances.