Dating apps give us the freedom to meet new people on our terms. They’re convenient when you have a busy lifestyle and above all, fun. However, stories of catfishing and disastrous dates have meant we must remove the rose-tinted glasses and take our safety seriously when online dating.
So how safe are we? Well, a recent survey found 18-24-year-olds are most likely to overshare, with 84% willing to share personal information with people they know online. So we’re here to give you a breakdown from start to finish about how to stay safe on dating apps, from creating a profile, to meeting up with someone for that first date. We’re not cynical, we’re safe.
Starting with what pictures you’ll upload. Aim to reflect what kind of person you are, whether you love being outside, travelling the world or cocktails with friends. But as a guide of what kind of pictures you’re uploading, choose ones you’d be happy with if your mum saw. If you’re looking for a potential partner, just take a beat to realise overtly sexual pictures could attract the wrong kind of attention.
Think you’ve taken that perfect selfie? Take the time to double check you’re not giving away more than you bargained for, such as your bank card. Pictures can be screenshotted and zoomed in by scammers if they spot your credit card number lurking in the background.
When it comes to your bio, be honest but not too specific; think your city, not your street. If the app is linked up with your Facebook account, check the privacy settings of your social media accounts beforehand.
When looking for a potential match, the obvious thing you’ll see first is the photos. Some tips to spot the real deal versus a possible catfish is in their photos; do they look overly professional, any obvious photo-shopping, do they have pictures with friends or is there only one photo? These are all giveaways of a fake profile. Most apps are connected with Facebook accounts so if you can, do some social media snooping and check the legitimacy of their accounts. Fake accounts often have few Facebook friends and all the photos are of just themselves.
Once you’ve checked out their photos, take the time to read their bio. It’s easy to mindlessly swipe through dozens of profiles, but if you read their bio it’ll give you a flavour of not only their personality but also what they’re looking for. Not everyone will be using dating apps for the same reason as you.
Found someone who’s caught your eye? If the conversation has broken past that awkward barrier and you’ve begun chatting, take note of a couple things to maintain your security. Get to know each other without giving away too much – similarly to writing your profile, let them get to know what you’re like but don’t reveal a specific address nor sensitive financial information. It sounds obvious, but hearing someone is in trouble or in need of money can pull on your heartstrings and you might consider sending them money, when in fact it’s a scam.
The first date
When you’ve chatted with someone long enough and you’re ready for that first date, here’s some advice for staying safe. Firstly, choose a public place, and preferably somewhere you know, as you’ll know people are around you, and it’ll probably help you relax. It will also mean you can bow out if it’s a disaster. Once you’ve both agreed on a place, make your own way there and your own way home. Whether it’s Uber or drive, it’ll mean you’re in control of when you can leave.
If you’re going for a drink, stay in control of it! Don’t leave it unattended and stay mindful of being able to leave when you want. A drink to calm first-date-jitters is great, but being too drunk to sort out your cab home isn’t.
Don’t forget to tell your friends. Tell them where you’re going, who you’re going with and when you expect to be home. We’re not saying sit on your phone all night but check in with them and give them peace of mind. Send them the date’s profile and any social media accounts as well, it’ll just mean if something does happen, they will have as much information as possible.
After the date
When the date is over, bear in mind him asking to walk you home is cute when he’s your boyfriend, but when it’s the first date, say you can make your own way home. It just gives him your home address.
If the date has gone well, fantastic! But if it was a dud, and you’re being bombarded with messages, don’t hold back on blocking them if they don’t accept you just aren’t interested. Harassment doesn’t deserve your manners.