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Avoid Online Dating Scams from First Swipe to First Date. 10 Tips for Safer Internet Day 2024

Safer Internet Day seeks to raise awareness and encourage conversations around the current challenges faced by society, and the emerging issues of life online - including helping you to avoid online dating scams.

Tuesday February 6th marks Safer Internet Day. Now in its twentieth year, the event has become a landmark in the online safety calendar, celebrated in approximately 180 countries worldwide.

Each year, the day aims to raise awareness of emerging online issues and current concerns - from cyberbullying and social networking, to digital identity and data privacy.

Dating & 21st Century challenges

Technological progress has led to heightened challenges within the online dating sector. The ease of accessing dating websites and dating apps presents some key issues, particularly in the form of safety.

Unfortunately, interacting with strangers online can put you at risk of identity theft, online harassment, stalking, digital dating abuse, catfishing, and other scams.

And of course, if you do decide to meet up 'in real life' (IRL) with someone you met on a dating app, you need to ensure your physical safety as well.

So, to make navigating the online dating scene a little safer, we've compiled a list of key tips for staying safe in the digital world - from first swipe through to first date.

Online safety: prior to meeting

1. Choose a credible platform

If you’re truly serious about finding someone to join you on life’s journey, then you simply have to choose a credible dating app to maximise your chances of both safely and success.

Some dating platforms, such as REDDI, an app with its foundations in attachment styles, require more legwork in order to gain access. If there’s a low barrier to entry, you’re bound to get a mix of everyone – and that can pose its own online risks.

While it’s not an absolute guarantee, a dating app with more hoop-jumping due to the level of detail required, verification, and any checks and balances to protect the safety of its users online, tending to weed out those people who are simply looking for casual hookups or a source of validation.

A paywall can often provide some reassurance that all of the members on the app are serious about using it, willing to engage and have good intentions and are ready to invest their time - putting their money where their mouth is.

2. Don't overshare online

It may sound obvious, but it happens all too frequently. Do not be tempted to share personal information. This begins with the username you pick; avoid something that might give something private details, such as your surname, workplace or date of birth.

Until you've met in person and are completely comfortable, stop and think what you're sharing with others. This includes your address, where you walk your dog, and of course your phone number or email address.

3. Stay on the app

It’s safer to keep using the messaging function within the dating app or site until you feel you have met and can trust your date.

If they ask for your number, ask you to email them or switch to WhatsApp (a common trick among scammers is to say their subscription is running out), just politely decline and say it’s nothing personal, it’s just your preference not to.

This makes it easier to protect yourself, report and block users who may be using the platform for manipulative purposes

4. Take your time before meeting in person

As excited as you might be when you have those initial butterflies, it is wise to build up some knowledge and rapport via your app's messaging service and get to know a bit about each other before meeting up.

This can help to give you a sense of who they are – and whether you have things in common. Just think about the details you’re sharing about you and your life. Avoid saying exactly where you live and work for example, until you’ve got to know each other a bit better and feel you can trust them.

5. Do your own research

Try Googling what you know about your new contact and do a Google image search to see where else their photo has appeared. Also, see if you have shared friends on Facebook or look them up on LinkedIn.

This can be a great way to establish whether they're being honest about the basic elements in their life - that they live in the country they say they do, work in the sector that they may have mentioned.

This should not be judged as weird, stalker-like behavior - it's actually very sensible (and they’re possibly doing the same to you!).

6. Think before you share

Whether it's the profile pictures you upload, or those sent to individuals you’re chatting to, it's always best to think before you share. Take a moment to consider what confidential information might be caught in the background of your photos, and be wary of using pictures clearly of your home that might also indicate too specifically where you live.

Sharing naked or provocative images can attract attention that you may not be looking for and could lead to risky situations that are beyond your control.

In real life: Meeting safely

7. Make an informed decision

Do bear in mind that there’s a limit to an online dating service’s ability to do background checks or verify someone’s identity. For example, they cannot do criminal records checks on every user.

Do as much research as you can, trust your judgement and make an informed decision before meeting up with someone. If you're unsure, then don't take any risks.

8. Keep arrangements casual

A good tip when meeting up in person is to keep it super-casual. If you go for a coffee or a drink, it is much easier to end the date than if you’ve committed to a sit down meal.

But equally, if it's going well, you can easily carry on and let it turn into lunch or dinner. Be wary of over-committing or being pressurised into more than you feel comfortable with.

Internet scammers or those with malicious intentions are likely to use emotional engineering to encourage you to stay for longer or drink more than you would usually do - don't fall into the trap of letting your guard down and increasing your vulnerability.

9. Meet in public & tell a friend

Make sure that someone knows you’re on a date and where you are.

Also, try to text that friend if there’s a change to the plan – or just to keep them updated about how it’s going. You should also let them know when the date is over.

Another golden rule of dating is; always meet in a public place. Never meet at their house or invite them to yours and make sure it’s a place where there are lots of people around and ideally, where you have phone signal.

It is also a good idea to meet somewhere that you know well and are familiar with so you know how to get home.

10. Check and protect your phone

Speaking of phones, make sure your phone is fully charged, as - if you do need to call someone - you don’t want to get caught short.

And it’s a good idea to keep your phone with you at all times; don't share pass-codes or allow your date to see your personal login information.

Behaviours you should always report immediately

Requests for money

Be mindful of the fact that if someone asks you for money online, they’re almost certainly a scammer. They might tell you they need to buy a plane or train ticket, that they’re widowed, that their relative is sick or that they will give you something in return.

But whatever the circumstance - never give out your bank details or give someone money. And even if they ask, stop replying and report them immediately to protect both you and others from being scammed.

Offensive, insulting or threatening messages

If you feel certain you’re talking to someone who isn’t who they say they are, or if they’re threatening, offensive or insulting, report it to the dating site or app you’re using straight away.

This way, you'll be helping them keep their platform safe. Rather than labelling it as 'just a bad experience', just think about the next person they might get chatting to. Credible dating sites and apps such as ours at REDDI take their members' safety seriously and will have in-built features to block or report.

When it comes to internet safety: trust your gut

Sometimes you just 'know' that something's off - and your instincts will tell you. Maybe your prospective date won’t tell you much about themselves but ask you continual questions, or perhaps they’ve declared their love and it feels like too much too soon?

If something feels odd or unusual, the chances are that all is not what it seems. Trust your instincts and be cautious until you’ve had long enough to really get to know someone.

Many people can become so caught up in initial fantasy on dating apps, idealism or lust that they actually stop thinking logically. So if you’re really not sure, wait until another time, or run it by a friend that you trust to share their view. Don't rush into anything you're not completely comfortable with.

Do you want to join an exclusive, members-only dating club

for those who want healthy relationships?

REDDI attachment style dating apps

We are currently accepting applications. You can apply to join REDDI today!

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