Finding love isn’t all roses…
Thanks to online dating, the dating pool is not only larger than ever – it’s more accessible. It’s exciting to have hundreds of potential dates at your fingertips, but cyber-romances can be risky. We just need to be a little more careful. Beyond trusting your intuition, you can take action to make your digital environment safer.
Here’s how to stay safe while you swipe:
#1 Be vague!
When you start chatting to someone, hold off on revealing your full name. Once someone has your name, they can do some digging and find out a lot about you: where you work, what you do, and who you hang out with. If you’ve purchased property, they may even find out where you live – which isn’t ideal.
The same goes for other identifying details, such as your suburb, job title or university. While it might seem weird to skirt around small-talk topics, it’s safer to steer clear of specifics until you’ve met – and vetted – the person. If you like them, there’ll be plenty of time to talk about your personal life, so for now, just see this as a way to sharpen your conversational skills!
Actionable tip:Create a generic username. For example, go for Jane03 over JaneDoe.
#2 Own your online presence
While you can’t control everything, you can control a lot of the information you put out into cyberspace. First up, set your social media profiles to private, and hide specific details, such as your phone number, company, school or church. At the very least, disable your location settings, or update them so they’re only active when you’re using the app (like Foursquare or Instagram). There’s really no need for an app to track your every move, every day!
Then, do a sweep of your photos. Tiny details can be revealing. Think street names, house numbers and car license plates.
Be careful with emails, too. If you get a strange email from a dating site that asks you to confirm your username, password or banking details, double-check with the site directly.
Actionable tip:Critique your social media profiles, and get rid of the autofill feature. Sure, it might take you a minute longer to fill out an online form, but it’s an extra layer of security.
#3 Upload new photos to your dating profile
When you’re really feeling a photo, it’s tempting to plaster it across all your profiles. But the problem is: it’s too easy for someone to run a reverse Google image search on that photo and unearth your personal information. We’re sure your selfie game is strong, so try to make sure the photos you use on dating sites are different from your profile picture on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn and so on.
Some dating apps are linked to social media accounts. This is great for user authentication, but you don’t need to display your handle for your future dates to see.
Actionable tip: Snap some fresh photos for your dating profile. Easy!
#4 Play detective
Now that you have your personal information on lock, don’t hesitate to search your suitor. Sure, a little mystery is nice, and most dating sites have screening processes in place, but it’s up to you to do your due diligence.
Watch out for online dating red flags, like odd language (such as stilted English and spelling errors), and social media accounts with few friends and lots of glossy photos. These are signs of an online dating scam.
Actionable tip:Ask questions, like you would face-to-face! If your date-to-be is boasting about their yacht or being best friends with a celebrity, press for details. If they get defensive, they might be stretching the truth.
#5 Protect your computer
Computers can be vulnerable to hacks and identity theft – but we don’t need to tell you that. For online dating safety, stick to using your personal computer, and avoid any public devices. Then, install antivirus and anti-theft software for security. We like ESET Internet Security. It works on Mac, PC and Android devices to protect you from hackers who may be trying to steal your data, and prevent access to your webcam. ESET’s software can also block offensive content and scan downloads for malware, which is key when you’re swiping online.
Actionable tip:Download an antivirus software ASAP. ESET is spreading the love in the lead-up to Valentine’s Day with its two-for-one promo. You’ll pay just $59.95 to protect two devices for a year, or $95.92 for two years.
#6 Use the dating app’s messaging system
It’s common practice to switch to texting after a few back-and-forth messages, but think twice before handing over your phone number. On dating apps and sites, users are monitored, so if someone starts to harass or send you inappropriate messages, the dating platform will step in to cut communication. You can also report suspicious behaviour – and you should! Let’s help each other.
Actionable tip: Prefer talking on the phone? Set up a Google Voice number for dating. That way, you can chat without giving away your real number.