If you answered “yes” to the first question, then there’s a good chance that you answered “yes” to the second one, too. Forty percent of Americans say they use online dating to try to find that special someone.
But just because online dating is common, that doesn’t mean it’s entirely safe. You don’t need to be paranoid every time you’re swiping, chatting, or meeting up, but you should make sure that you’re using your common sense and protecting yourself as you date online. Below, we’ll lay out some of the best practices to keep in mind as you’re searching for your Mr. or Miss Right online.
Protect your personal information
The first thing many people want to know when they connect with someone online is their phone number. This has some positives, of course. Swapping phone numbers is a nice prelude to accepting or offering a date, and those who feel a little weird about the in-app atmosphere may feel more comfortable texting or chatting in the (relatively) old-fashioned way.
But be careful. Phone numbers and last names aren’t the most private information in the world, but they’re not the sort of things that you want to tell just anyone. Consider going on a date before swapping numbers, instead of after. And be wary of anyone who wants information that goes beyond the basics. Even people you have been dating for quite a while have no business knowing your bank or credit card information, your Social Security number, and other important private information. If they’re asking about those things, they might be a scammer.
Performing a background check
Who is this person that you’re talking to online? The fact is, you just don’t know. It’s incredibly easy to create fake profiles on dating apps, and many people on dating apps admit to lying about things of varying importance. Maybe the person you’re talking to is shorter than they say — or maybe they’re a scam artist and a crook.
Do a little digging to find out. You don’t necessarily have to invest in a full background check — though that wouldn’t necessarily be a bad idea. But it’s smart to at least do a quick Google search on your would-be date before you agree to meet up. Maybe you’ll find something that turns you off in a big way, or — worse — you’ll find their criminal record or online mugshots.
This, by the way, is a good reminder for the non-creeps among us: Our dates are probably Googling us, too. While you might not have a terrible secret to hide, you should still think about the impression that your social media pages make (and, for that matter, how accessible they are to strangers — check those privacy settings and protect yourself.)
Meeting up safely
You’ll eventually want to meet someone you met online in person — that’s the point of online dating, after all. But be careful about how you do so. Even if you’ve done a little research, you don’t necessarily know that this is a good person who it’s safe to hang out with.
So pick a public place for the first date, and use your common sense and street smarts. Don’t leave your drink lying around while you go to the bathroom. Don’t drink so much that your judgment is impaired. Make sure that others know where you are and when to expect to hear from you next.
Hopefully, you’ll find that all of this is unnecessary — and hopefully, you’ll soon be off the apps entirely and happily in love with someone wonderful. Until then, though, remember to be smart and protect yourself.