Online dating has opened up a whole new world of opportunities that never existed before. Plenty of people find their long-term partners online, and it’s a convenient way to meet people outside your workplace or everyday social circle. 

However, with every online encounter, there are potential pitfalls and dangers to keep in mind. There are several things to be aware of concerning your safety in the online dating world. Fortunately, you can employ various simple yet effective strategies to protect yourself from harm when online dating, both before you meet someone and during a date. 

Get to Know Them Before the First Date

Before you decide to meet that potentially special someone in person, it’s best to get to know them a little. It’s even better if you can speak to them on the phone first or, better still, arrange a video chat

Video chatting is a fantastic way to ensure the person you’re talking to is who they say they are. Unfortunately, it’s only too easy to pretend to be someone else in the online world nowadays. Catfishing is commonplace in the online dating scene, but you can take precautions to make sure it doesn’t happen to you. 

Don’t let someone lull you into a false sense of security when you’re chatting via online messaging. If they refuse to speak on the phone or over video chat, and you get a bad feeling, don’t ignore it. Reluctance to interact outside of the dating app’s chat is a red flag to watch for. 

Do a Background Check

You can also protect yourself in the online dating world by performing some simple background checks on the person you plan to meet. 

It may seem over the top, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. You can learn a lot about someone by reviewing their online profiles. 

If you have suspicions that the person you’re speaking to might not be who they say they are, or you just want to know more about them before meeting up, there are various ways to check them out online.

Google is an excellent tool for dating research, simply type their name in and see what comes up. You can also use Google to reverse image search, a simple way of checking whether photographs provided to you are genuine or are taken from another site or social media platform.

Also, check their social media accounts. Almost everyone has an online footprint nowadays, so you should be able to find something that confirms their identity if they are who they claim to be. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok are all potential resources for learning more about the individual. 

Choose a Public Place to Meet

Meet your online date in a public area, especially if it’s your first meeting. You may have a great feeling about someone, have seen positive posts on their social media, and have no concerns about catfishing, but you can never be too careful when it comes to your safety. 

Meeting a potential love interest in a public place means there is a much lower risk for harm. You have the protection of other people all around you. Arranging a date at a familiar public place is also a good idea. Not only will you know where you are and feel safe, but you will be calm and in control of the situation.

Always Tell Someone Where You’re Going

Whether it be a close friend, a roommate, or a family member, always let someone know that you’re going out. If possible, tell more than one person to ensure you’re protected if something goes wrong. 

You should give your loved ones some information about the location you’re heading to, as well as telling them about the person you’re meeting. It makes sense to leave the name of your date and their phone number with your friend or family member.

Give them a time when you expect to be home, and if anything changes during the evening, let them know. You might even consider creating a routine where a friend or family member checks in with you at various points in the night.

If your mobile phone has location services, ensure they’re enabled so your loved one can see where you are and watch for anything suspicious. 

Remember, if a friend or family member shows concern or brings up any red flags, try not to take it the wrong way. Most likely, they’re just looking out for you, and they may have noticed something concerning that you haven’t. 

Take their concerns seriously, as their gut feeling is just as important as your own. Sometimes your proximity to the situation clouds your judgment when dating someone. That’s why it’s always best to get a second opinion

Handle Your Own Transportation

When practicing safe online dating, arranging your transportation for the first date has several benefits. 

If you drive or book your taxi, you have the option to remove yourself from an unsafe situation if you need to. You also have the personal security of not providing your address to a relative stranger. 

It might seem convenient if you’re being offered a ride, but getting into the car of someone you haven’t met before is a risk.

Trust Your Gut Feeling 

There’s plenty of great online dating safety advice out there, from background checks to informing a loved one of your whereabouts. But one of the best pieces of advice to keep in mind is to trust your gut instincts

Try not to let the excitement of a first date overpower your better judgment of a situation. Don’t ignore any feelings of unease you have, either before or during the date. If something about the situation seems wrong, don’t feel guilty about using your exit strategy. It’s always best to err on the side of caution. 

Watch Your Drinks

It’s always advisable to limit your alcohol intake, especially when meeting someone for the first time. Alcohol lowers your inhibitions and gives you less control, putting you in a vulnerable position. When you’re out with someone you don’t know, this can lead to a potentially dangerous situation.

Make sure you never leave a drink unattended. Don’t let someone bring you a drink from across the room unless you watch them prepare it. Unfortunately, substances like GHB, gamma-hydroxybutyric acid can be added to drinks unknowingly, allowing those who drink it to be taken advantage of when their guard is lowered. 

Stay Alert, Stay Safe

Practice caution when online dating to ensure you know who you’re talking to and meeting up with. Always meet in a public place and inform others of your whereabouts. If you have any concerns, trust your gut. Throughout the date, remain independent and handle your own transportation to and from the destination. It is always better to be overly cautious when meeting a stranger for the first time. 

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