Traditionally, you would meet a potential partner by chance or when they are introduced by a friend or a family member, stated AARP, a non-profit, non-partisan organization. You would exchange numbers and talk and if it goes well, you would make plans to meet up. After the meetup— if successful— ou would plan another date with your partner.
However, technology has helped reshape the dating world. There are still people who meet their partners offline, but the number of online dating services has skyrocketed. Such services help singles find “The One” easier and quicker than ever.
Despite that, safety should remain a top priority for anyone looking for a partner in the online dating scene, reminded Carla VandeWeerd, a University of South Florida professor and lead author of a report that explored the online dating experiences of women 50-years-old and beyond.
A Pew Research Survey Sheds Light on the Downsides of Online Dating
Some experts argued that the open nature of online dating created a less civil dating scene for users, making it difficult for users to be responsible for their actions, said Monica Anderson, Emily A. Vogels, and Erica Turner of Pew Research Center, a non-partisan think tank. Aside from that, online daters stated that dishonesty is ubiquitous on dating platforms.
71% said it is common for people on dating platforms to lie about themselves to appear more desirable. 60% believed that people create fake accounts to scam others and 48% said they receive sexually explicit messages or images they did not ask for. 25% of online daters reported that they were harassed or bullied while 18% reported privacy violations like data breaches or identity theft.
Among online daters, 37% said someone continued to contact them after saying they were not interested. Compared to men aged 18-34 (27%), women aged 18-34 (60%) were more likely to report this kind of incident on dating platforms. 35% of dating users said someone sent a sexually explicit message or image they did not ask for. This was also more common in women aged 18-34 (57%) than in men of the same age group (28%).
28% said someone called them an offensive name, with more younger women (aged 18-34, 44%) than men (18-34-years-old, 23%) experiencing it. 9% of users reported that someone threatened to physically harm them. Again, more 18-34-year-old women (19%) were more likely to report this negative interaction than men (9%).
Regarding the safety of online dating, about 53% of Americans (including those who have and have not online dated) agreed that dating sites and apps were a very or somewhat safe way to meet people. Meanwhile, 46% said these services were a not too or not all safe way of meeting people.
52% of those who have not used a dating app or site said these services were a not too or not all safe way of meeting people compared with those (29%) who used them. Women (53%) were more likely than men (39%) to believe that dating services are not a safe way to meet individuals.
Among age groups, those 65 years old and above (59%) believed that online dating services are not a safe way to meet someone, compared with those aged 50-64 (51%), 30-49 (39%), and 18-29 (38%).
How to Stay Safe While Finding “The One” Online
1. Look at the Photos
Julie Spira, CEO of Cyber-Dating Expert, noted that one of the red flags of a fake date is when there is only one photo, cited Colleen Cronin of People, a human interest and celebrity magazine. If your date looks like a hot model, that’s one red flag too.
Be warned against photos that are unrealistic or blurry. It is advisable to check a date’s pictures in other social media platforms “to make sure they match up with to what we are seeing on the dating app,” Spira added. Use Google’s reverse image search tool to expose fraudsters. However, it might not generate useful results if your potential date’s social media accounts are set to private or if the photo has not been uploaded anywhere.
2. Watch Out for Suspicious or Fake Profiles
Part of the social media background check is to ensure that they are not “catfishing” you by using a bogus account to create their dating profile, stated RAINN (Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network), the US’s largest anti-sexual violence organization.
If you think that they are suspicious or if they have done something inappropriate to you, block and report them. Trust your gut if you feel that your potential date acts sketchy or doesn’t represent themselves truthfully.
Suspicious behavior includes requesting for financial assistance, narrating inconsistent or grandiose stories, attempting to threaten or intimidate you, and more. Don’t respond to someone’s request for financial assistance no matter how convincing their story is. Report such requests to the site or app immediately.
3. Guard Your Privacy
Avoid disclosing your social security number, credit card number, bank details, or work/home address. Watch out for emails that request you to provide your login information. If you do receive one, report it and delete it.
4. Plan Your Date In a Public Place
It is recommended to set a predate video chat to give you a feel for the person you are meeting up with, VandeWeerd said. This can be done at the safety of your home, but be sure to remove anything personal or identifiable in the background.
A predate video chat also ensures that your date is who they claim to be. Then, meet your date at a public place such as a coffee shop or in a bar with plenty of people. Avoid setting up dates in isolated places or in public parks.
Inform your friends and family about your whereabouts. You can also take a screenshot of your date’s profile and send it to your loved ones. Don’t rely on your date’s transportation (even if they volunteer to pick you up) so that you can leave the venue whenever you feel uncomfortable. VaneWeed added, “Check in after the date is over so there's someone who can come looking for you immediately if something doesn't go the way that you might expect.”
Online dating can be fun if safety is the main priority. There are posers and scammers who utilize online dating services to prey on vulnerable users. Be sure to conduct a background check on your potential date and take your time to get to know them.