In the fast paced, technological world that we live in today, online dating services have grown exponentially. As busy as many people are these days with work and other obligations, finding a date online is just one more way to make life a bit more convenient. While convenience is definitely a plus, it is important to take into consideration the potential risks of utilizing an online dating service or app, like Grindr, Scruff, or Tinder.
After all, the initial interaction with others on an online dating app removes the face-to-face connection that can subtly give a person that initial attraction or gut instinct to create distance. It is also much easier to hide ulterior motives behind the screen of a phone or computer.
Since online dating is the evolution of the modern dating scene, people must practice good sense and follow simple safety guidelines to ensure they get the maximum benefit from these apps while minimizing the risk involved.
Most people who have used the internet for any length of time are no stranger to scams. Scam artists are typically pretty fair in their approach to potential victims, targeting religious, mainstream, and LGBTQ-specific dating services. In order to recognize and avoid falling victim to various scams, it is important to know how to recognize when someone is attempting to defraud you.
Common scams include extortion or pleas for help resulting from an alleged recent disaster. When a scam artist uses extortion, they may threaten to contact the police or another entity concerning something they allege you have done, unless you send money, personal information and/or items. “Sextortion” is a version of extortion where a person will threaten to release your sexual images or activity to police and/or other entities unless you give in to their request.
A simple way to identify such scams is to recognize a few red flags:
- Someone attempts to continue communication with you off the main website. Scam artists typically believe by doing this, there will be less chance of their actions being reported to the main website, where they may attempt to scam many other people.
- Someone shows a disproportionate amount of interest too quickly. The person may have motives far beyond wooing you!
- Someone continually comes up with reasons why they cannot meet you in person.While the reasons provided may be practical, it is important to be able to identify and see through their agenda.
Meeting a person face-to-face can ease your suspicions, bit it brings a host of other safety risks that you must account for and mitigate. Recently in Nashville, there has been a string of alleged robberies, where the suspects utilized mainstream gay dating/hookup apps to target victims. Individuals have met up with their potential dates and subsequently been robbed at gunpoint. While this is an extreme example of the dangers of online dating, it is a very real possibility!
Basic Safety Measures
Thankfully, there are some safety measures that can dramatically increase your safety and allow you to get the most out of your online dating experience.
Always meet in a well-lit, public place, where there will be plenty of other people. You can always head to a more private place after meeting your date and getting a basic feel for who they are. Trust your gut on this initial introduction if something does not feel right: leave. You are not obligated to spend any more of your time with that person.
Drive to that predetermined location separately. This keeps your home address private, and, if you need to abruptly leave for any reason, it is best to have your own transportation so you can do so without question.
Always tell a friend or family member who you are meeting and where you will be, including any plans that develop. And make sure the person you’re with knows it—but you can be subtle about that. This way someone will be able to keep tabs on you and check up on you to ensure your safety.
When you first meet a date, it is best to limit your consumption. Alcohol lowers your inhibitions and makes you feel more comfortable, but it also decreases your awareness of your surroundings and your ability to make good choices. Reserve those uninhibited times for when you are with people you trust in a safe environment.
Always be mindful of how much personal information you reveal on your profile. Don’t provide details that allows a potential scam artist or stalker to find more personal information online. It is best not to include your full name on you profile, or any other information that could help narrow a search of who you are (such as alma mater). Also, don’t the same photo on your dating profile as you do on other social media accounts: remember reverse image search!
Online dating is nearly the universal, but some simple steps can reduce your risk of falling victim to scams or violent crime. By recognizing these and other red flags and utilizing easy safety guidelines, you can more safely navigate the many potential dates and ‘dates’ just a tap away. Most importantly, trust your gut when a situation doesn’t feel right: chances are, something is wrong, and you need to get out as fast as you can.