Approximately one in five Americans have turned to the Internet in an attempt to find love according to data provided by Statista. Additionally, the number of online dating users is expected to continue to grow over the next few years, increasing from an estimated 34.9 million in 2019 to 37.5 million by the year 2023.
While this is good news for online daters because it means more potential matches, there is one aspect of online dating that makes this love-connection option a bit scary. It is the concern over whether the person on the other end is safe to date, let alone potentially marry.
This fear is only fair many online dating sites don’t screen for sex offenders and some profiles are fake, set up by scammers intent on stealing your identity. Worse yet, watch Investigation Discovery for any length of time and you quickly learn that, every year, some people are abducted, raped, or murdered by someone they met online.
Does this mean that you should give up on using the Internet if other attempts to find the “perfect” mate have failed to materialize? Not necessarily. By following a few basic tips, you can improve your safety when dating online.
Limit the personal information on your profile
Certainly, you want to talk about yourself a bit on your profile so potential partners can better determine whether you’d be a good match. But this doesn’t mean that you have to share so much information that you can be easily scammed or stalked. Things to keep off include your date of birth, address, where you work, and anything about your kids. Wait until that other person has earned your trust before you give out this type of personal detail.
Set up an email or phone number solely for online dating
There are a ton of online sites that enable you to find someone using nothing more than a phone number or email address. So, if you use your current number or email for online dating, you’re making it easier for others to figure out exactly where you live, where you work, and more. Instead, set up an email account and/or phone number you can use strictly for your dating websites and apps. Only give a minimum amount of information on each so you’re harder to find.
Don’t meet before you speak
One huge red flag in the online dating world is if you want to speak to the other person—either by phone or video—prior to meeting, yet it never quite works out. This likely means that the other person isn’t who he or she says, so save yourself some grief and just walk away. Even if that person isn’t a physical threat, who wants to get involved with someone who isn’t going to be completely truthful and honest?
If you meet in person, tell someone about the meeting
If you’ve talked to the person online for a while and determined that you’d like to meet in person, let a close friend or family member know who you’re going to meet, where you’re going to meet, and any other details that could help in the event things go south. It’s also not a bad idea to have them check in with you via text every hour or two, also giving you an out if you don’t feel a connection or things get weird.
Always meet them there
Also, if you do plan to meet, always meet at the event or venue versus letting them pick you up at home. This keeps you from getting into a vehicle with someone you don’t know well, making it harder to escape if they have bad intentions or if you simply want to go home. It also keeps them from knowing where you live until you’re ready to share this information.
Make dates public
When first getting to know someone, it can be tempting to go someplace quiet and kind of desolate so you’re not interrupted. However, this type of environment also makes it easier for them to harm or take advantage of you if they wish. That’s why it’s important to keep your initial dates in public places. The more people around you, the better your chances of getting help should you need it.