Is Online Dating Safe? Everything You Should Know

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According to the Pew Research Center, 59% of American adults have used an online dating site or a mobile dating app. But what are the risks when meeting someone for the first time?

Although this is difficult to answer, let’s take a look at some of the common concerns that might stop you from meeting up with that special someone you’ve been talking to online.

The Dangers of Online Dating

A recent survey showed that a majority of people who met online felt that the experience was safe and successful. However, a closer look at how these couples met might shed some light on why they felt this way. For example, only three percent of couples said that they had actually met up with someone from an app or site away from the location where the app was downloaded.

Considering this information, the safety risks usually have less to do with meeting up with a stranger from online dating and more to do with how you met. In other words, as long as you avoid someone who seems dangerous or uncomfortable, your worst fears probably won’t come true.

Here are some common dangers of online dating.

Catfishing

Catfishing, the phenomenon of creating a fake profile to trick someone into falling for them, has been around long before dating apps existed. However, this doesn’t make this type of exploitation any less common or severe.

While some people who catfish use their fake persona to flirt with the other person in an attempt to gain their trust, some can be downright dangerous. In fact, a 2014 study found that one in five adults who have personally used an online dating site or mobile app have been catfished.

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Online Predators

People who use the internet to coordinate a meeting with a minor may do so for several reasons, including sexual assault and child sexual exploitation, warns the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. Because of this, law enforcement officials are extra vigilant when it comes to online contact with children.

If you’re not careful, online predators can be harder to spot than you might think. A 2013 study showed that almost 40 percent of female respondents had sent or received sexually suggestive messages online. And with tools like Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp being so prevalent, the idea of an app with built-in security is becoming less of a luxury and more of a necessity.

Sextortion

There is a growing concern that online dating sites and apps are becoming havens for extorters. If you’re not familiar with the term, sextortion refers to cybercriminals who use personal information or images of someone (usually obtained by hacking) to demand money in exchange for keeping the material private. Because of this, it’s becoming more and more common for people to meet up in a public place before going out together.

According to a recent survey, 52% of Americans who have used an online dating site or mobile app feel that it is completely safe. But with 18% of them say that they’ve experienced harassment and 11% admitting to being put in a dangerous situation. Despite these risks, most online dating sites and apps have a built-in system for matching you with people you might be interested in.

Therefore, you must take the proper precautions before meeting up with someone from one of these apps or sites.

How to Stay Safe on an Online Date?

There is no foolproof way to ensure that your date will be safe and enjoyable. However, you can take certain steps to make sure that the experience goes as smoothly as possible:

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Meet at a Public Place

If you’re meeting someone from a dating site or app, meet them at a public place first. If you don’t feel comfortable with this location, take the date elsewhere. Your first date is not the time to be adventurous – take all necessary precautions before going somewhere isolated with someone you’ve never met.

Take a Friend

One of the best ways to stay safe on a date is to take someone with you. This way, if anything happens, you have an ally there to help you out of the situation or call for help if needed.

Let Someone Know Your Plan

Be sure to let someone know where you are going before your date and what time they can expect you back. If anything happens to you, your loved one will know who to contact immediately.

Don’t Give Out Personal Information

No matter how much you trust the person you are seeing, never give out personal information unless necessary. This includes sharing your address or phone number, meeting in a private place after hours, and giving them access to any of your social media profiles.

While safety is a concern, so is privacy. Therefore, you should only share what needs to be shared and nothing more. Make sure that your trusted friend knows how to reach you in an emergency but remain cautious about who gets access to other details about your life until you know them better.

Keep It Minimal

You may not know this person well, but you don’t want to rush into sharing intimate details about yourself either. If the conversation starts getting too deep for your liking, keep it casual. You can share fun facts about yourself if you feel comfortable doing so but try to avoid divulging private information until there is a genuine reason.

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Know When to Call it Quits

If you feel as though your date is going too far, make sure to end the date as soon as possible. If they try to convince you not to go or attempt to follow you home, do what you can to protect yourself and report this behavior immediately.

Has Online Dating Become Safer in Past Few Years? 

The answer to this question is yes. However, the reason why it’s become safer isn’t a technological breakthrough. In fact, most of the progress has come from a proactive approach by online dating sites and sugar baby apps.

In addition to offering basic privacy features like blocking users who behave inappropriately, these programs have been investing in self-regulation initiatives that encourage people to report abuse or criminal activity.

The Bottom Line

The majority of online dating sites and apps offer a safe platform for people to meet, but this doesn’t mean that you should let your guard down completely. There is no substitute for using common sense when using one of these sites or apps. This includes meeting in a public place, having someone with you during the date, not sharing personal details until necessary, and ending the date when it becomes uncomfortable.

If you keep these basic safety precautions in mind while using an online dating site or app, you will have an enjoyable experience. If you feel as though your safety is being threatened, do what you can to stay safe and alert someone of the situation.

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