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14 Tips To Help Keep You Safe When Dating Online Or Using Apps

Online dating is so common now that it’s almost synonymous with plain old dating.

For the most part, dating apps and websites have given us a convenient new way to connect with people—but online dating has introduced some new issues. Interacting with strangers through apps can put you at risk for identity theft, online harassment, and scams. And if you decide to meet up in the real world, there’s unfortunately also a chance you could find yourself in physical danger. You’re never responsible for the predatory or disrespectful behavior of others, but there are things you can do to protect yourself when you’re interacting with a stranger. Below we have listed some useful safety tips, as well as a chart that compares the safety and security features of some of the most popular dating apps of 2019.

Comparing dating apps: How safe are they? App rankings can get convoluted as the list of pros and cons varies widely and evolves constantly. To keep things simple, we reviewed eight of the most popular apps and developed a basic checklist of features that can affect users’ safety, security, and privacy. See our metric definitions below the chart to learn more.

Choosing a site and setting up your profile: 1. Avoid sites and apps that let just anyone message you. Unfortunately, people already get lots of unpleasant and disrespectful messages. That probably can’t be completely avoided, but if you use an app that requires both parties to express interest before they start messaging, you may get fewer messages that make you feel unsafe or uncomfortable. 2. Pay attention to the geography settings in dating apps. Many dating apps use your location, but strangers shouldn’t have access to information that lets them find your specific neighborhood. 3. Use unique photos for your dating profile. It is really easy to do a reverse image search with Google. If your dating profile has a photo that also shows up on your Instagram or Facebook account, it will be easier for someone to find you on social media. 4. Avoid putting lots of personal details on your profile. Don’t include your last name, contact information, or social media account handles. And while you’re checking your online dating profile, check your other social media accounts. Do they have lots of information that would make it easy for a stranger to steal your identity or track you down in real life? Reevaluate what you’re sharing—even if you’ve got tight privacy settings, there’s the possibility that someone in your friend list could share information from your profile with someone you don’t know. Interacting online: 5. Use the dating app’s messaging system. It might be less convenient than texting with your phone’s default messaging system, but it gives you extra protection.

6. Set up a Google Voice phone number just for dating. At some point, you may want to talk to someone on the phone before you meet them in person. But instead of giving your real phone number to someone you don’t know, consider using a Google phone number and forwarding it to your phone. It’s pretty easy—once you log in to Google Voice, you can search by area code and choose an available number. Once you pick a number, the instructions will walk you through the rest of the setup. 7. Talk to mutual friends. Dating apps will sometimes show you when you and the person you’re talking to have mutual friends. Check in with those friends and find out what they think of the person you’re interested in. 8. Get to know them, but don’t share too many details at first. The point of talking online is to get to know someone better, but it’s still smart to wait to share more personal details until you’ve met them in person. Unfortunately, someone who seems great when chatting in an app could be very different in real life.

Meeting in the real world 9. Arrange your own transportation. It’s smart to avoid letting someone know exactly where you live until you know them better. Drive yourself to the date or get a ride, but don’t have your date pick you up or take you home. 10. Meet in a public place for your first date. The first date is a great time to try out a coffee shop, wander through a museum, or chat over dinner and drinks. 11. Stay aware and alert. You should be able to trust those around you to be respectful, safe, and kind, but unfortunately that’s not always reality. Take extra care of yourself when you’re out with a stranger. Don’t leave your drink unattended, drink less than you would if you were out with close friends, and avoid staying out until you’re really tired. 12. Enlist the help of a friend. Let someone know you’re going out with someone new, tell them where you’re going, and set a time for them to check in on you and make sure you’re okay. 13. Keep some emergency cash on hand. Keep a little bit of cash somewhere on your person so that you have money if your bag or wallet gets lost or stolen. 14. Consider carrying a self-defense tool. Carrying a self-defense weapon is a very personal decision, but if it makes you feel safer, you may want to carry a Taser, pepper spray, pocket horn, firearm (legally purchased) or a knife. In some cases, even a flashlight can make an excellent self-defense tool.

You should never feel bad for putting your safety first, even if it means you have to do something that feels rude. Following the advice above can help you stay safe in the dating world, but if someone or something makes you feel unsafe, it's your right to leave (whether you’re leaving an online conversation or an actual date). If you’re just messaging, you can simply stop responding and block the other person. Many dating apps will let you unmatch and report problematic behavior. If you’re on a date in real life, get up and walk away, go to the restroom and call a ride, ask the restaurant for an escort to your car, or message a friend and ask them to come meet you. If you've already given out your phone number, there are also ways to block phone numbers. How you leave is up to you, but you should never feel bad for putting your safety first.

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