Is Online Dating Safe? 14 Tips For Safely Finding Love Online
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If you’re new to dating again after a divorce or breakup, your friends are probably pushing you to go online to find a man. But you wonder: is online dating safe? Is it something you should explore…or stay away from?
Maybe you’ve heard horror hookup stories about Tinder…
Or about a friend of a friend who met nothing but losers on dating apps…
Or simply are intimidated by the prospect of talking to a man online and then meeting him face to face.
Whatever your hangups about dating apps and sites, I want to help you navigate the world of online dating without fear for your safety.
The Lowdown on Online Dating and Dating Apps
In general, dating apps and sites are perfectly safe, though of course there are exceptions (PLEASE don’t Google them. They will freak you out). They are just another channel to connect single people, just like a bar or a singles group.
The key is to be conscious of what you’re doing, both when you text a new guy and when you meet him in person. After all, you don’t know this man! Put your safety first!
At the start, you may feel like a fish out of water, but after talking to or even dating a few men you meet on dating apps, you’ll learn to look for certain signs that tell you that the dude is a good one.
Why You Should Consider Online Dating
A lot of women in their 40s or older find it harder to meet a man at this point in their lives. In college, men were everywhere. Now you may only interact with men at work (and you’re not going there) or in line waiting for your coffee. You feel like all the good ones are already taken.
If meeting a man the natural way is a challenge, you absolutely should try online dating…though realize that it’s just ONE tool in your toolkit for finding love. Yes, try online dating, but also go to singles events…ask your friends to set you up…do it all!
After all…what have you got to lose?
Is Online Dating Safe? It Is if You Follow These Safety Tips
Your safety should be a priority. I don’t care how hot a man’s photos are online. He may not even be that guy (that’s essentially what catfishing is: someone posting photos that aren’t him and then lying about who he is). You have to go into online dating with a bit of skepticism, if only to ensure that you don’t end up with a bad — or even dangerous — guy.
I’m not trying to scare you, but I don’t want you to be naive in thinking that every man you meet through dating apps will be honest. So to answer the question, is online dating safe: it absolutely is…when you take certain precautions.
1. Stick to Quality Sites
Not all dating sites are created equal. Some put more focus on keeping you safe. Bumble, Tinder, Match, eHarmony, and a handful of others are reputable sites, and many have measures to prevent catfishing, though they’re not always foolproof. I’ve heard from many women I’ve coached that these sites tend to have higher-quality men, probably because they charge for their services.
Free sites like Badoo and Zoosk have a much higher instance of fake profiles. Don’t waste your time.
2. Learn the Signs of a Catfisher
It’s crazy: more than half of online daters have seen dating profiles where they think the person lied about one thing or another. Sometimes these are small lies, like their age or height, but sometimes they are full-blown catfishing. They may steal someone else’s photo or completely make up a persona. Why? There are different theories. Sometimes catfishers are bored or lonely. Sometimes they’re too insecure to date as themselves and so they pretend to be someone else. Look for these signs that you might be the victim of catfishing.
He’s quick to be affectionate, though may not ask many questions about you. He texts several times a day and always asks how you are. He makes you feel good because, hey, this guy really likes you! And yet…he really hasn’t bothered to find anything out about your personality or history. I’m not saying a good man can’t fall for you quickly, but just go slowly until you meet him and get to know him.
He’s got his whole backstory down pat, and there’s usually some trauma there. I know a woman who talked to a man who, in the first five texts, told her that both his parents had died when he was little. I mean, it might be true, but is that really something you’d come out with so early in the game? In this case, he was looking for her sympathy to hook her.
He wants to get off the dating app and get your number. Probably because if you realize he’s catfishing you, you’ll report his profile!
He can’t talk on the phone. Naturally, if you’re dating someone, you want to talk to them. But this man always has an excuse. He can’t talk at work. His battery is dying. He’s at his mom’s house. After a few excuses, realize there’s something more going on.
He drags his feet to meet you. He’s all about texting you 24/7, but even after a few weeks, he’s not asking you out. Then you ask him out…and it’s one excuse after another. A lot of times, catfishers will claim to be deployed overseas, which makes it convenient, since they can’t meet for coffee.
He doesn’t have photos of his face on his profile. I advise women to never, ever start chatting with a man who won’t show his photos on his dating profile. He’s hiding something. Either he’s not who he says he is, or he’s married and doesn’t want to be caught.
3. Learn How to Reverse Image Search
Here’s a tricky little tool to see if you can find more photos of this guy to make sure he is who he says he is. Right click his photo on a dating site or screenshot it. On Google.com, click the camera icon in the search bar and upload the photo from his profile. If he’s used that photo anywhere else, it will appear in search results. You might find his Facebook page or other dating profile.
You’re looking to make sure that his image is on profiles with the name he’s given you! I know a woman who did this from a dating app for a man who said he was named Stefano, Italian, living in California. The search revealed that he was not Italian, his name was Pete, and he lived in Ohio! The guy didn’t even know that someone had stolen his photo to use on dating sites as a catfish. This trick can reveal a lot!
4. Do a Little Investigating
Is online dating safe? The more you know, the safer it is. I’m not saying you have to go all stalker on the guy, but Google his name and see what comes up. If there’s a warrant out for his arrest, block him!
Just be careful: it’s easy to get pulled down the rabbit hole here. You Google him and he turns out to be legit…so you start clicking on links and social profiles. In 10 minutes, you know far more about this guy than he’s actually told you. This can be a problem if you mention his recent sailboat race win…and he asks how in the heck you knew about it. Awkward….
5. Take Your Time Before Agreeing to a First Date
There’s not a lot to be gained by agreeing to go out with a man you’re chatting with through a dating app within a day or two of virtually meeting, and the more time you take before you meet, the more you can get to know him and be assured that he won’t chop you in a thousand pieces on that date. I kid!…mostly.
If he’s genuinely interested in you (and not just looking for a hookup), he’ll be patient and agree to wait to meet. If he asks within the first few minutes of texting whether you want to meet…and it’s 9 pm…he’s probably just looking for one thing.
You need to be comfortable with this man before meeting him. Talking just builds the relationship, so talk for several days or even weeks before you meet him.
6. Talk on the Phone Before a Date
I can’t really explain why talking on the phone can give you reassurance that he’s not a creep…but it’s true. In this era of texting, it takes a little commitment to agree to actually talk on the phone, so if he agrees (or even suggests it), it’s a good sign that he’s really interested in you.
Also, it’s hard to get to know someone via text. Even if you voice-to-text it, you have a delay between your question and his response. A phone conversation allows you to dive deeper into those getting-to-know-you questions and lets you see what kind of chemistry you have in conversation.
And I guess if he sounds like a complete weirdo…you can then block him and not worry about it.
Another of my female coaching clients moved from the dating app to a phone call, and the man sounded like he’d drunk 10 cups of coffee (or was on speed). Within five minutes, he told her he’d been diagnosed with mania…then asked her to meet up that night. She found an excuse to get off the phone…and blocked him.
7. When You Do Meet, Make it a Public Place
“Come over to my house, baby,” he purrs, “I’ll cook you dinner.”
As sexy as a man who cooks is…you don’t need to accept this invitation for the first time you meet someone. The man should understand your need to feel safe. Choose a restaurant or bar. Make it a place you’re familiar with. Park under a street light if it’s night time.
DON’T meet at his house or anywhere remote. And if he tries to bully you into doing it, realize that this guy does not have good intentions!
8. Tell Your Friend Where You’re Going
Is online dating safe? The jury’s still out, but if you take precautions like telling a friend where you’re meeting this guy, you pretty much eliminate most of the risk.
Let one or more friends know where you’ll be, and at what time. You may even tell them to text you to check in…or ask them to send a fake emergency text if things aren’t going well!
I know some women who even download an app that will keep up with the location of their friend’s phone in case something goes wrong. You can’t be too cautious!
9. Read His Profile Carefully
Not all men fill out their online dating profiles thoroughly, but many do. Keep an eye out for any red flags you might otherwise miss if you focus on his handsome photos:
“Just want a hookup”
“In a polyamorous relationship”
“The wife and I are looking for a third!”
You probably want to move on from these profiles (though, you might not. No judgment!). It pays to read!
10. Plan for the Date to be Short
Meeting for coffee is a great first date, and should only last an hour or two. If you’re uncomfortable or don’t like the guy, you can make an excuse to leave. If you do have a good time, extend the date to dinner!
You could even tell him before the date that you have an appointment a couple of hours after the date. If you feel bad about lying, make plans with a friend to do a post-date dish so you actually do have plans. And even if the date goes well, being slightly unavailable will make him want you more!
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11. Ask the Right Questions
It may seem silly, but even asking “have you ever been married” can lead to some interesting answers. Some men (certainly not all) will be completely open. They may even admit that they’re married…in which case you have the chance to get out before you get involved in a bad situation.
Scary but true: at least 30% of Tinder users are married! Some will openly admit it in their profiles (and some women are even into being the mistress). Others may admit it once they meet you, hoping you’ll understand. Still others will try to keep it under wraps permanently, so put on your Super Sleuth hat and do some investigating if you’re concerned that he might be keeping something from you.
And asking what he’s looking for before you meet can help you find out if he’s just looking for a hookup so you don’t waste your time.
12. Use Photos You Don’t Use Anywhere Else
Just like you can do that reverse image search on him, so can he do it on your photos. If your dating profile pics are the same ones you use on social media, he can easily find out a lot of information about you. Not cool.
Use a photo that you haven’t used anywhere online to keep your data safe.
13. Don’t Let Him Pick You Up on the First Date
You have no idea if you’re going to want to go on a second date, so why would you let this guy know where you live before you’ve met him? Even if he’s trying to be chivalrous, tell him that you’ll meet him at the venue. That way you aren’t relying on him for a ride home if you’re ready to go home…and you know you’ll get home safely.
14. Trust Your Gut
If he gives you the creeps by telling you he loves you after texting you for two days…block him.
If you meet him and he can’t stop staring at your breasts…run away.
If he asks for money…report him on the dating app.
(That’s a thing, by the way. All dating apps have an option to report and/or block a guy. You can specify that he’s not who he says he is, that he’s being vulgar or inappropriate, etc. Use that feature so that other women don’t end up being annoyed by the same man!)
Your instinct will tell you if you’re talking to a man who is not worthy of you. Listen to it. Even if your first online dating experience isn’t what you hoped for — whether you didn’t click or he turned out to be an utter d-bag — realize that the more effort you put into dating online, the better the results you’ll get. And I promise: there are some really great guys on dating apps! You’ll find one!
After all, 8% of people who are married or in serious relationships met online, and that number is growing every day!
If you’re serious about meeting Mr. Right, you greatly increase your odds of meeting him sooner by doing everything you can to meet more single men. Commit to it like a part-time job. Sign up for meetups (if nothing else, you’ll meet other people who understand what it’s like to be out there dating). Go to bars and restaurants with friends. Go to parties where you don’t know everyone. See who your friends know.
And yes, try online dating.
It may be scary at first. After all, the last time you were single, dating apps didn’t exist. Your only option was meeting someone in person. But look at dating apps as a benefit: they can connect you to really cool people you wouldn’t otherwise run into.
Talk to me. Have you tried dating apps? Do you have any success stories…or laughable moments? Share them in the comments below!
Hi Adam! Love your videos and email advice. I’m over 50, which is challenging anyway in our youth-obsessed society. I’ve met a few decent guys online, just no chemistry yet. But I’ve also met ones who are 10-20 years older than their photos, and even one who was 100# heavier (felt sorry for that one). I post current photos, so I expect the same of others. Planning on stating that in my profile. And then, if someone still misrepresents his appearance and he’s not recognizable from his photos, I won’t feel bad telling him that he’s not who I was… Read more »
I wish I would have had this information when I started online dating. I got stung by a couple of catfish, but ended up with an amazing partner after dating casually for a few months.
Thanks,sage advice.Keep it coming.
Adam, I really appreciate that you made this post about online dating. For the most part, I agree with your points; it is essential to emphasize safety and caution, especially for this environment that allows for too many unverified responses. I have used online dating sites for the past 5 years – so I’m pretty much a pro at them! That being said, I disagree with your point about waiting a long time before meeting up. Although I definitely don’t advise someone meeting up on the same day, I have found that having an extended period of virtual conversation adds… Read more »
Thank you for your advice. But I am traumatized by online dating. really experienced that I don’t want to repeat again. The man was very annoying, his gaze seemed to want to pounce on my body immediately 🙁
All of these are excellent tips for protecting your safety when online dating. Thank you for writing such a helpful and comprehensive post. A few more suggestions… If your date waits for you to get a cab/Uber/Lyft, don’t let them hear you give your address to the driver. And obviously, don’t share a ride at the end of your date. In your dating photos, don’t post anything that could reveal private or personal info. For example, pictures with pets often show the pets name tag with a phone number and/or address. Another example is to avoid wearing logos of your… Read more »
Thanks for post!