The Dangers Of Online Dating And How To Protect Yourself

Last updated on : June 19 2021

Heart on a keyboard

Be Careful When You Date Online

Online dating has been around for quite a while. The Covid-19 pandemic has redefined how people interact and the dating game. More people have turned to online dating, which has numerous advantages, and some risks as well.

Bumble, a dating site, recently had a successful IPO, which proves just how well online dating is doing. Experts predict that by 2025, the online dating industry will be worth 3.5 billion. 

What are the advantages and risks of online dating, and how can you protect yourself?

Advantages Of Online Dating

Not everyone has a negative online dating experience. Some people have found true love leading to marriage via online dating. Online dating has a few advantages such as:

1. Access

Online dating allows people to have access to a wider variety of potential partners from all over the world. Physical dating limits you to your locality, but you can date anyone globally online, leading to a meeting if you are both agreeable.

2. Matching

Most online dating sites offer their clients different types of personality tests and matching. This matching helps to guide people towards compatible partners.

3. Communication

Online dating offers you different communication methods that allow you to know someone before a physical meeting. You can chat via the dating site platform and graduate to text messages, Facebook or Instagram Messenger, WhatsApp, Signal or other messengers, Skype, Viber, etc.

This variety of communication methods allows you to get to know the other person before deciding whether you want an actual meeting.

Dangers Of Online Dating

Online dating comes with risks, which you can manage if you are keen on finding love online. Some of the dangers of online dating include:

1. Romance Fraud

Romance fraud is an old trick that is common because it still works. We have heard numerous stories of women or men conned by someone they met online. 

Romance fraud is a form of catfishing, which leaves the victim devastated by the scheme's sheer sophistication. This scam targets men or women who are especially vulnerable emotionally, like widows, widowers, or recent divorcees.

The catfishers are very sly and patient. Some work fast and sweep their victims off their feet, and before they know it, their accounts have been swept clean. 

They build a fake online persona or steal someone's identity. Then the fraudsters approach a victim on these dating sites, make friends, build a relationship over time, and build confidence. 

The scammer will claim to be a successful businessman or a career that demands them to be away for extended periods like oil rigs (very common), NGOs, or the army. The Covid-19 lockdowns have lately given them another excuse as to why they cannot meet.

After building trust, they ask for money from the victim, each time asking for a little more. One day, they ask for a large sum of money, and that's when they disappear, leaving the victim in shock and disbelief.

2. Webcam Blackmail

Webcam blackmail or sextortion is another common scam. 

The blackmailers approach the victim and establish a romantic relationship. After gaining the victim's trust, the scammer will start hinting at sexual acts on the webcam. 

After some time, the victim agrees to do it. The scammer records the sexual acts on a webcam and blackmails the victim. Most victims pay up to avoid being exposed by the blackmailer and end up blackmailed for years.

3. Phishing Scams

In a phishing scam, the scammer emotionally manipulates the victim into revealing their confidential information. 

The scammer strikes a friendship with the victim and, over time, gains trust. They use clever ways to get information from their victims. 

If you have an online friend who keeps asking prying questions, you are about to be phished.

How To Stay Safe When Dating Online

Daisies in a heart shape

Even if the other person is miles away in another country, you can still be in danger, albeit not physical. 

Here are some privacy tips for online dating:

1. Do Not Reveal Too Much Information

When you meet someone new, do not get too comfortable and reveal too many personal details. Too much info gives a potential scammer a lot of power and means of tracking you down. 

Some unscrupulous people are on dating sites with malicious intentions. The scammer may use the information you reveal to stalk you, or you may get kidnapped for ransom. 

Never give any stranger, no matter how long you have been talking online, your bank details. If anyone asks for such information, it's a red flag. 

Block and report the person's profile.

2. Talk Via Phone Or Video Call

After chatting for a while, make an effort to call the person via a phone or video call. Talking allows you to notice any verbal or physical cues that a text cannot id. 

Talking like this allows you to hear their voice and match it to their face. A scammer may use a different person to call you, but they cannot lie on a video call. 

The face on the online profile must match the voice that called you on the phone. If the scammer resists phone or video calls, that is another red flag.

Read MoreThe 10 Most Popular Dating Sites Today

3. Use A Google Voice Number

Google Voice number costs nothing. It allows you to create a number that you can use for domestic and cheap international calls. 

The service filters call spam, and the spammer has no way of knowing your actual number. 

This approach protects you from potential spammers and people you block on the dating site app.

4. Limit Location Data Sharing

Most of us have social media page accounts such as Instagram and Facebook, and we keep sharing our locations online. Location sharing makes it easy for anyone to trace our whereabouts. 

Avoid or limit sharing your location with a small circle of friends. Even with this circle of friends, you should avoid it altogether as a scammer could hack your social media account.

Sharing your location in a way falls in the same category as giving out too much information. Avoid sharing your physical address, your current location, place of work, or school. 

This information might allow a kidnapper, stalker, or worse, to know your location.

5. Use A VPN

A Virtual Private Network or VPN is software that allows you to log into the internet anonymously. VPNs have different servers across the globe or country, allowing you to log into a server away from your current location. 

If you are in the UK, you can log into a server in a US city or vice versa. This practice confuses anyone trying to stalk or trace your whereabouts.

A VPN encrypts your data and allows you to log into the internet via unsecured public networks. If you log into your dating site app without a VPN, your communication might be eavesdropped on and intercepted. 

A VPN creates a safe space between your device and the internet that no one can penetrate. Most VPNs use the AES-256-bit encryption, a military-grade encryption standard used by banks and governments.

6. Meet In Public Spaces

You cannot have an indefinite online relationship. Eventually, you will need to meet this person you have been chatting with online. 

When you decide to meet, ensure you are meeting in a public place like a busy restaurant. 

Tell a friend or family member where you are meeting this person, and ensure your GPS tracker works. Give your friend or family member the full names and phone number of the person you are meeting.

If your date asks for a venue change, make sure it is still a public place you are familiar with and know. If not, refuse and stick to the original venue. If your date insists, end the date. 

If they start giving you strange vibes like aggressiveness in language or getting physical or verbally abusive, scream for help.

7. Stay Sober

A mistake people make when meeting a person for the first time is getting carried away. NO matter how long you have been chatting on the dating app, remember this person is still a stranger. 

Do not get drunk on the first date. Avoid alcohol if possible. Never take your eyes off your drink, and do not leave a drink unattended. Many people get drugged by people they thought they knew.

Alcohol impairs your judgment and makes you miss red flags. Staying sober will help you read a situation and keep your instincts alert.

Conclusion

Heart in crayon

Online dating is fun. It allows you to meet people from countries and regions you might never have. 

However, not everyone on an online dating site is looking for love. Some are unscrupulous catfishers out to make a quick dollar from unsuspecting people.

When on the dating site, take everyone you meet with a pinch of salt. Do not trust too quickly, and watch out for red flags. If someone wants to get close too fast, is overly curious about your finances, avoids phone and video calls or meeting you, this is a possible catfisher. 

If they insist on meeting in out-of-the-way venues, that's a red flag. Be careful who you let into your life. Not everyone is an angel.

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