Over 40 million Americans are using online dating apps or services. It’s important to take some safety precautions when meeting someone online or off. It is up to the user to decide if they feel comfortable meeting someone. It is important to keep in mind that it is not your responsibility if you experience sexual violence or assault while using an online dating app or website.

Here are some tips to help you feel more secure when you interact with other people through online dating services in Sydney and apps, whether you are communicating virtually or in real life. These tips aren’t a guarantee but may make you feel safer.

Connecting Online

You can easily do a reverse search on Google using different photos. It will be easier to find you if your profile photo is the same as your Instagram or Facebook picture.

Avoid connecting to suspicious profiles. It may be a fake profile if the person with whom you have matched has no bio or linked social media account, and only has one photo. You should be cautious when connecting with someone about whom you know so little.

Look up your potential date’s social media profile. If you know your match’s name or handles on social media–or better yet if you have mutual friends online–look them up and make sure they aren’t “catfishing” you by using a fake social media account to create their dating profile.

Report and block suspicious users. If you believe a user’s profile is suspect or they have behaved inappropriately towards you, you can report and block them. You can do this anonymously, either before or after matching. It is possible that people will misrepresent themselves in any interaction. You should trust your gut instincts when determining whether someone is being truthful or not.

Below are some examples of common stories and suspicious behaviors that scammers might use to gain trust and sympathy in order to manipulate another user.

  • A sudden crisis can lead to a person asking for financial help.
  • Claim to be American but currently lives, works, or travels abroad
  • Claim to be a recently widowed parent with children
  • The site suddenly disappears, then reappears with a new name
  • Answers to specific questions are vague
  • Early in your communication, you should not be too complimentary or romantic.
  • You are pressured to give your phone number, or speak outside of the dating site or app
  • Sending flowers or gifts under the pretense of requesting your address at home or at work
  • Telling inconsistent or grandiose tales
  • Has a disjointed grammar and language, but a high education level

You can report the following user behaviors:

  • Financial Assistance Requests
  • Photographs Requested
  • It is a minor
  • Sending harassing or offensive messages
  • You are threatened or intimidated in any way
  • It seems that someone has created a fake account
  • You are being sold products or services

Wait before sharing personal information. Never share your personal details with someone you’ve never met in person, such as your social security number or credit card information. You will never receive an email from dating apps or websites asking for login details. If you do, delete the message and report it.

Do not respond to requests for financial help. Never send money to someone, even if they seem convincing. This is especially true if the request comes from overseas or by wire transfer. Report the request to your app or website immediately if you receive one.

When Meeting In Person

Schedule a video call with your potential date after you’ve chatted with them. It’s a great way to verify that your potential match is the person they claim to represent in their profile. It could be an indication of suspicious behavior if they are adamant about not allowing you to video call them.

Let a friend know where you are going. Send a screenshot of the profile of your date to a close friend. Tell at least one of your friends where you’re going and when. Text a friend if you decide to continue the date somewhere else than you had planned. You can also arrange to call or text a friend to check in at home or partway through your date.

Avoid meeting someone new in your apartment or office for your first date. You and your date may feel more comfortable if you meet in a public place like a bar, coffee shop or restaurant. First dates should be avoided in parks or other isolated places.

Do not rely on the transportation of your date. You should be in charge of your own transportation so you can leave when you like and you don’t have to depend on your date if you feel uncomfortable. Avoid getting in a car with a stranger, even if they offer to pick you. This is especially true if this is your first date.

Download a few apps for ride-sharing on your phone, so that you have backups in case you don’t get the one you want. You should make sure your phone is fully charged and has data. If you don’t have any, you can bring a charger or portable battery.

Drinking on a first date is perfectly acceptable. Do not drink because your date does. Avoiding drugs can be beneficial before or on a first date because they could affect your perception of reality and have unexpected interactions.

Ask a waiter or bartender for help. Find an advocate if you are uncomfortable. A bartender or waiter can help create a distraction or call the police. They can also help you get a ride home.

Trust yourself. When you are uncomfortable, you should trust your gut instincts. You can leave the date or stop communicating with anyone who makes you feel unsafe. You don’t have to worry about being rude. Your safety is the most important thing, and your date will understand this.

You can unmatch, report, or block your match if you feel uncomfortable or unsafe after the date. This will prevent them from accessing your profile again.

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