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Stay Safe While Online Dating: Essential Tips for Women Of All Ages

As a post-menopausal single woman heading into my mid-60s who has come to value my autonomy and peace of mind above all else, and as an avid listener to the Dateline podcast, my inclination to venture back onto online dating has been almost non-existent in the past few years.

But I was bored one evening and decided to log in to Match.com for the first time in many years to see if the same pool of people was there since the last time I logged in. I found myself updating my profile, changing out the photos, and paying for a month of access, and then I went to bed.

Woman shopping on laptop.
Image credit: JumpStock.

What Have I Done? Into the Breach….

When I awoke in the morning, I logged on and as is often the case for new female profiles – my inbox runneth over. And I panicked.

Long ago, I agreed with myself that I do not owe everyone a response who winked, liked, or said hi. I say so in my profile – “thank you for taking the risk, but I will only respond if I feel there is a reason to move forward. And I wish you well on your journey.” It seems to mollify most recipients, and for those that it does not, then I usually get a clear and quick idea of who they are at their core. When someone lambasts me for not acknowledging their outreach, it is pretty clear we are not a match, and I’ve saved myself some heartache.

But there were a couple of men I thought I would like to know more about – which got me thinking about safety. Now, on Dateline, most of the killers are husbands. So, as long as I don’t marry them, I should be fine. But I also have a reasonable sense of caution about inviting a total stranger into my life.

I’ve had enough experiences with online dating in the past to know firsthand the shock of being catfished, a person becoming aggressive after too many dinner drinks, meeting someone who outright lied about their age, health, and general details of their life, having someone disappear after what felt like positive interactions, and having menbecome immediately over-attached, all quite unnerving.

I have intrepid girlfriends who love the dating scene, thrive on multiple first dates, and have spent years trying to find “the one.” That is not me. I hate dating. I just want my “familiar” to magically appear, take-out dinner in hand, already completely integrated seamlessly into my life. But since that is unlikely, and so I don’t end up on an episode of Dateline, I thought it helpful to review online dating safety tips.

So, I’ve compiled a quick guide to help you (and me) stay safer and more secure during our online dating journey.

Man and woman dating in cafe - couple
Photo credit Olena Yakobchuk via Shutterstock

Understanding Safer vs Safety Tips

Before delving into the specifics of online safety, understand the concept of “safer tips.” No safety tip can guarantee complete protection against sexual violence. The sole responsibility for sexual assault lies with the perpetrator. However, by implementing certain precautions, individuals can enhance their safety and minimize risks.

NEED HELP? RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) is the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization. RAINN created and operates the National Sexual Assault Hotline (800.656.HOPE, online.rainn.org y rainn.org/es) in partnership with more than 1,000 local sexual assault service providers across the country and operates the DoD Safe Helpline for the Department of Defense. RAINN also carries out programs to prevent sexual violence, help survivors, and ensure that perpetrators are brought to justice.

Older couple eating salad.
Image credit PeopleImages.com – Yuri A via Shutterstock.

The prevalence of online dating services and apps underscores the need for caution when interacting with potential matches. Despite the convenience and accessibility they offer, most dating platforms do not conduct comprehensive background checks on users. Therefore, individuals must take proactive measures to safeguard themselves against potential risks.

Safer Interaction Tips

  1. Diversify Your Profile Photos: When creating your dating profile, opt for diverse photos that are not easily traceable to your social media accounts. Avoid using identical images across multiple platforms to mitigate the risk of unwanted exposure. Now, a lot of us have just a few favorite photos we like of ourselves that we use everywhere. DON’T DO THIS. Have a friend take new pictures in locations that are not identifiable.
  2. Exercise Caution with Live Photos: Be cautious when sharing live or motion photos on dating apps, as they may contain geolocation data that could compromise privacy. Exercise discretion when sharing such images with matches. You can upload any photo to a free version of Canva, save it, and download it without any details from the original photo available.
  3. Vet Suspicious Profiles: Exercise discernment when interacting with profiles that lack detailed information or exhibit suspicious behavior. Avoid connecting with individuals who display red flags such as incomplete profiles or inconsistent data. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. If a profile is verified, a feature available on platforms like Tinder, Bumble, Hinge, and OkCupid, it indicates that the person’s appearance matches their pictures. However, profiles without photos or with only one photo, especially if they’re not verified, may raise red flags.
  4. Photos of The Other Person: Another potential warning sign is if someone’s photos appear too good to be true, resembling magazine ads rather than candid snapshots. In such cases, taking a screenshot of the profile and conducting a reverse image search is advisable. This can help determine if the individual is potentially catfishing or misrepresenting themselves online. I remember seeing pictures of George Clooney on Match.com many years ago. I was pretty sure he was not online dating. Sometimes, they are not that obvious.
  5. Conduct Social Media Checks: Conduct social media checks to verify their identity and authenticity before meeting a potential match. Cross-reference their profile information with their social media presence to ensure transparency and trustworthiness. This is where Google is your friend. Now, I don’t need to tell most women how to investigate something about a man – but often times, there are clues as to where someone works or lives that can be helpful when conducting an online search. Google search their photos. If they say, they are an environmental lawyer in such and such town… Google their first name, environmental lawyer, and the town name, and then go to the Image tab. Often it is that simple. I have saved myself from engaging with someone who had been tried and convicted for sexually abusing his female OB/GYN patients ten years earlier by a simple Google search. I can promise you this was not shared on his profile.
  6. Report Suspicious Activity: If you encounter suspicious behavior or feel uncomfortable during interactions, promptly report the user to the platform’s administrators. Most dating apps offer mechanisms to block and report users anonymously.
naked man posing on computer laptop
Photo credit Lolostock via Shutterstock.

Red Flags to Watch For

  • Requests for Financial Assistance
  • Inconsistent Personal Information
  • Prematurely Intense Romantic Gestures (Lovebombing)
  • Pressure to Disclose Personal Information
  • Requests for Naked Photos or Recieving Unrequested Naked Photos
Couple holding hands in Paris.
Image credit oneinchpunch via Shutterstock.

Safety Measures for In-Person Meetings

  1. Initiate Video Calls: Schedule a video chat to verify their identity and establish rapport before meeting someone in person. Refrain from meeting individuals who refuse video calls, as it may indicate potential deception.
  2. Inform a Trusted Contact: Prior to your date, inform a trusted friend or family member of your plans, including the date, time, and location. Share your match’s profile details and arrange for periodic check-ins throughout the date. You can also give a friend temporary access to share your location with them. For Android users click here. For Iphone users click here
  3. Choose Public Meeting Locations: Opt for public venues such as restaurants or coffee shops for initial meetings. Avoid secluded or isolated locations, and prioritize safety by selecting settings with ample foot traffic and visibility.
  4. Arrange Independent Transportation: Maintain autonomy over your transportation arrangements to and from the date venue. Refrain from accepting rides from your date, and ensure you have alternative transportation options readily available. I’ve heard some women say how much they appreciate the gallant offer to pick them up for their first date. NO. Never. Nada. Take and Uber, a bus, walk, ride your bike, have a friend drop you off.
  5. Trust Your Instincts: Prioritize your intuition and well-being throughout the dating process. If you feel uncomfortable or unsafe at any point during the date, trust your instincts and take necessary precautions to protect yourself.
Positive middle aged multiethnic couple in love focused on smartphones, browsing Internet, discussing shopping, service, application, enjoying online communication, wireless connection technology
Photo credit fizkes via Shutterstock

Conclusion

By adhering to these comprehensive safety recommendations, individuals can navigate the complexities of online dating with confidence and peace of mind. Remember, your safety is paramount, and proactive measures can empower you to make informed decisions and prioritize personal well-being.

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Author

  • Robin Jaffin

    As the co-founder and managing partner of the digital media partnership Shift Works Partners, LLC through two online media brands, FODMAP Everyday® and The Queen Zone she has played a pivotal role in promoting dietary solutions for individuals with specific needs in the health and wellness industry as well as amplify the voices and experiences of women worldwide.

Last update on 2024-04-12 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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