The day of love is upon us which means it's high time to be a bit more generous with your "right swipes" if you're looking to find a date for the big day. Although the added pressure of a holiday that focuses on being in a relationship will likely spur a little more motivation for you to find "the one" this month, it's still important to remember that there are some risks involved with dating someone you've found online.
From money order scams to catfishing and even physical risks, meeting a stranger you found on an app for a date can be pretty dangerous if you don't do your research to find out a bit more about them before you head out for your first date. Although there are many success stories involving individuals who've found their soulmates online, there are still quite a few horror stories out there that warrant the need for a little extra caution when approaching the dating scene through an online source.
If you're looking for a special someone to celebrate Valentine's Day with this year, here are six tips you should implement in your search to stay safe while using a dating app or website to find a date.
1. Run a reverse image search
At this point in the existence of online dating, most of us are well aware of what it means to be "catfished." Although the thought of someone leading you on under the pretense that they are someone else sounds pretty depressing on its own, catfishing can also be used in elaborate online schemes to extort information from online daters and/or trick them into sending large sums of money. This is why the first step you should take in vetting a potential online match is to run a reverse image search.
By running your potential date's profile photo through a reverse image search, you can identify where else the photo appears online. If you find that the same image appears under a different name on one or more social media sites or dating profiles, you're likely being catfished.
2. Keep your conversation on the app
As mentioned above, one of the preferred tricks for online dating scammers this past year has been to extort personal information from unsuspecting matches. Once a scammer has a little dirt on you, he or she can use it to blackmail you. Experts say that one way to prevent this from happening is to keep your conversation on the app or website where you initially started the discussion. This is because many reputable online dating sites have ways to prevent sketchy user behavior like screenshots or image saving that other means of communication like text or email cannot regulate.
If a user asks to take your conversation "offline" politely request that you stay on the app or website until you've met them in person at least once. It would also be wise to avoid sending personal information or images to strangers who you've met online to be safe.
3. Check for mutual friends
One great way to find out more about a person you plan to meet from a dating site is to reach out to any mutual friends you might have on Facebook. Most apps require that all users at least have a Facebook account, so this shouldn't be a problem.
Head over to the Facebook account of the person you're considering dating to find out if you share any friends. If you do, see who those friends are. Are they people you would feel comfortable reaching out to? If so, send a quick message explaining the situation and ask if they'd be willing to vouch for the person. Sure, this might seem a bit excessive, but it could save you from an awkward date with a jerk or even keep you from meeting up with someone who has a bad history.
4. Look for red flags in their language
On the same note of avoiding jerks and potentially dangerous individuals, you'll want to look for any red flags while you're on the person's social media profile.
How is their spelling and grammar looking? Poorly written posts could be a sign of a scammer. If there aren't too many glaring mistakes in the overall composition of their posts, check out their content as well.
A tweet from the United States Department of Defense recently confirmed that you can often use a person's social media postings to determine whether or not they are mentally stable. If you notice that the individual is a bit of a loose cannon or often uses language to undermine and degrade others, you might want to give this prospect a hard pass and continue your search.
This guide outlines some red flags to look out for on a social media profile before you date them. Although the article focuses on men specifically, the same red flags could apply to women as well.
5. Go beyond social media
If you're still skeptical of a person's legitimacy after scoping out their social media profile, you might want to do a little extra digging beyond social media to find out more about who they are. If you're seriously suspect of someone or if you are a parent who would be introducing this person to your kids in the future, it might be time to consider a background check. This will tell you things like if the person has been married in the past, if they've ever been convicted of a crime, if they're telling the truth about their employment situation, and if they've ever been registered as a sex offender.
Several dating sites like eHarmony, Match, and ChristianMingle offer background checks on members already. If your preferred dating site doesn't offer a thorough screening method, you can run your own background check relatively easily and for a reasonable cost.
This article discusses the details of running a background check on a date a bit further if this sounds like the route you'd like to take in vetting your date.
6. Share your location with a friend
Once you've decided to give the person you've been speaking with the opportunity to meet in person, sharing your location with a trusted friend or family member before you go can help you stay a little safer. This will help you ensure that someone knows where you are at all times so they can come get you if your date takes an unexpected turn.
If you're an iPhone user, you can find a step-by-step guide to sharing your location here. Android users can also share their locations with others easily with a simple setup process. Pro tip: be sure your phone is fully charged before you leave your home so the person you share your location with doesn't lose track of you while you're out.
Online dating is a mixed bag – you never really know what you're going to end up with until you meet the individual in person. Although this is pretty risky, you can eliminate many of the risks involved with dating online when you take the time to vet each potential date before taking things too far. Hopefully these tips will help make online dating a little safer for you this Valentine's Day!