DateHacks: 8 Ways to Stay Safe Online
Dating expert Charly Lester streamlines your love life with #DateHacks.
Romance scams and dating fraud get a great deal of press these days, and whilst successful instances of fraud are rarer than the papers might suggest, it is still important to be vigilant. So how can you stay safe when you’re dating online?
1. Never give out personal details
When you’re getting to know someone romantically, sometimes you talk about things you wouldn’t with your friends. However there are certain pieces of information you should never share with someone. Whilst you might think it’s obvious not to share your bank details, credit card numbers, driver’s license details or passport number, other details – like your mother’s maiden name or the name of your first pet can be just as useful to scammers.
2. Never send someone money
Again, this may seem obvious, but you will be surprised how manipulative scammers can be. People can come up with elaborate ways to make you part with your money. Never accept delivery of goods for someone you don’t know, or lend a stranger money for a flight home, or a new laptop. Remember, if you haven’t met someone in person several times, they are still a stranger. The same applies to ‘investment opportunities’. Never take investment tips or advice from someone you have met on a dating site.
3. Don’t keep it online forever
This is sensible advice on a number levels. Firstly, it will stop you forming unrealistic expectations of your date, and allow you to work out if there is a spark in real life. And secondly, where online fraud is concerned, a scammer is unlikely to meet with you in real life. If someone repeatedly makes excuses why he or she cannot meet up with you, be cautious. If someone seems too good to be true, they may well be. Call their bluff and ask to meet up. You’ll win either way – either driving a scammer away, or meeting someone who turns out to be just as amazing as their profile suggested!
4. Be wary of long-distance and overseas relationships
If someone tells you they can’t meet you in person because they live far away, this should be a red flag. Very few people search for a partner online who doesn’t live in their locality. Remember, a high proportion of scammers operate from abroad.
5. Be strong
Scammers seek out vulnerable daters, so make sure your dating profile doesn’t make you appear that way. Avoid opening your heart about previous break-ups or a lack of self-confidence. Make your profile sound strong and confident. They are attractive traits, and will also help keep scammers at bay. Remember, if you are over 40, recently divorced, elderly, a widow, or disabled, you may be seen as an easier target.
6. Be careful what you share
When you meet someone online, and move things offline, it can be easy to get carried away, sending photos or videos to the other person. Never send anything to someone which you wouldn’t mind friends or family seeing. Don’t put yourself in a vulnerable position by sharing media which you wouldn’t be happy appearing in public. It’s worth noting that scammers often try to take conversation offline as quickly as possible. At the beginning, keep communication where it can be monitored, and easily blocked if need be.
7. Look for the ODA mark
The Online Dating Association is a British trade body, responsible for setting and maintaining standards in the online dating industry. Members of the ODA agree to a Code of Conduct, which includes aspects to protect users, their data and their privacy. When you see the ODA mark on a dating website, you know it adheres to that code.
8. Report anyone behaving suspiciously
Never be afraid to report someone if you think they are behaving strangely. If you feel uncomfortable, or even remotely suspicious, contact the website provider. Good dating websites should have the functionality to allow you to block and report users at the touch of a button.
Charly Lester is one of Britain’s most recognised dating experts. The founder of the UK Dating Awards, her blog 30 Dates is one of the most successful British dating blogs ever. The former Global Head of Dating at Time Out, Charly’s advice has appeared in most national newspapers, and she regularly appears on Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour.
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