As the internet takes a bigger and bigger role in our lives, dating has moved from dinner and a movie to the online chatroom. According to recent research, over half of those of us who are single have used an online dating website or app before. From our computers, it’s likely to be websites such as eHarmony, Plenty of Fish, or Match.com, with their complex algorithms and detailed questionnaires to find us the perfect match. From our mobile devices, it’s a quick swipe left or right on Tinder, Bumble and Hinge as you scan hundreds of singles in your area. But is online dating safe? As we tap to our heart’s content, looking for love, who is on the other end of those conversations? There are plenty of scammers out there, and it’s easy to give your personal details away to the wrong person. Fortunately, we’ve put together a few tips to keep you protected while online dating.
What kind of online dating traps might you encounter?
The most common trap to encounter is catfishing. This is when someone creates a fake online profile and pretends to be someone they are not. They then use this profile on the dating app to lure in unsuspecting victims, employing a fictional name or pretending to be a real-world person whose details they have stolen.
These dating and romance scammers will start chatting to you, and they’ll be very friendly and forward with their emotions. Often, they will declare that they have strong feelings for you and request to move the relationship to a private communication channel away from the popular sites such as Match.com or Tinder. It’s a good idea to stick to the platform through which you have met someone at first, until you are sure they are not a scammer. Only then should you give out your mobile number to start texting.
Scammers will often claim they are from a Western country such as Australia and that they are travelling – this is to prevent you ever being able to meet them. They will shower you with loving words, sharing what appears to be personal information and stories about themselves (these are never true). Over months, they will build up your dream idea of a relationship simply by listening to the things you say and re-expressing them as mutual desires.
And then, right when you feel most attached to them, they will ask you to lend them money for a flight or other travel expense to come and visit you. Never send money to someone whom you do not know personally and whom you trust totally. It’s just a trick the online scammers use – if you send it, you’ll never actually see them and probably won’t hear from them again.
Another common tactic for online dating scammers is to send you valuable items such as laptop computers and mobile phones, and ask if you are able to resend them somewhere, or they could ask to transfer some money into your account and have you send it onwards to a third party. Beware of these tactics. They are criminal activities and a way for the scammers either to move stolen goods or to launder money. Either way, you are liable for the crime.
How to protect yourself when online dating
1. Should you give your phone number out when online dating? Absolutely not. The platforms like Tinder and eHarmony that you used to connect with your potential date all have inbuilt messaging services, and you should use those primarily.
2. Do your research. This one’s simple. Google and other search engines will allow you to search for the personal details someone has provided, even back-searching a photo they provide to see if it is a stock image or if it has been used under someone else’s account before. Make sure you go beyond just Facebook and Instagram in your searches.
3. Video chat before your date. It’s much harder for someone to pretend to be someone they aren’t if they have to come on video. Never meet someone unless you’ve had a video chat with them. And if they are unwilling, that’s a good clue that they are a scammer.
4. Never meet at your home. Whether that’s them offering to pick you up from your house in the car, or inviting them over for dinner, never allow someone you have never met before to know where you live. Always meet them in a public place with lots of people around, and bring your own mode of transport so you can leave whenever you like.
5. Carry pepper spray. It’s a simple one, but self-defense is essential and could save your life.
6. Let a friend know. Always make sure someone else knows where you are going and when you are going to meet someone. If you go missing or get into trouble, they’ll be able to alert the police and come to your assistance.
7. Stay Sober. This one’s difficult. Often, nerves will mean you want to have a drink to loosen up, but your guard will drop if you have too much to drink, and you will be more likely to take risks. Keep safe by staying sober.
The best protection for online dating
By far the best way to protect yourself when online dating is to use a private messaging app that gives you a second phone number. CoverMe is a free downloadable app available for iPhones and Androids that provides multiple disposable numbers for you to sign up to dating websites without ever having to give out your real phone number. It also has a secure, encrypted messaging service so you can communicate with people anonymously and with military-grade protection. You can even use the numbers that CoverMe gives you to make calls to anyone with a number in the US, Canada, and China, even if they don’t have the app. CoverMe also has several other great features:
1. Private vaults with four-digit pins and decoy passwords to hide files on your phone.
2. End-to-end encrypted calls and messages that won’t show up on your phone bill.
3. Private chatting groups that let you text, call, send files, photos and videos, and even broadcast to your friends – all over a secure network.
4. Self-destructing messages and message recall – so the wrong people never end up reading your messages.
For the best secret number app for online dating, and the only true way to stay safe while online dating, download the CoverMe app now.