In 2021, over 300 million people worldwide used dating apps to find love and connection, with about 20 million paying for premium features. Sadly, 24,000 Americans fell victim to a romance scam that year, losing a total of 1 billion dollars collectively to scammers. The last thing you want when searching for a potential partner is to find a scammer instead. Whether you’re looking for something short- or long-term, staying safe and avoiding cybercrime on dating apps is crucial.
Dating app safety tips
Online dating can put you at risk for different types of scams, such as catfishing, identity theft, cyberbullying, harassment, and doxing. And if you decide to meet in person, you’re potentially risking your physical safety as well. That doesn’t mean you need to be scared—just stay vigilant and follow these dating app safety tips.
Pick the right dating app for you
With so many dating apps out there, it can be difficult to choose which one is right for you. The first step is to determine what you’re looking for, as most dating apps serve a specific demographic or specific purpose. Next, you’ll want to review the safety features of the apps you’re considering. For example, some apps offer verification to authenticate profiles.
You should avoid apps that allow messaging prior to matching. No one wants to receive creepy, unsolicited messages from a stranger. Bumble is a top choice for women because it allows them to make the first move.
Only swipe right on verified profiles
As an added layer of protection, you should only swipe right on profiles that are verified. This is usually designated by a check mark on the user’s profile. This means the user had to submit documentation to prove they are who they say they are, such as their driver’s license or a selfie in a specific pose. While verification helps prevent catfishing, it doesn’t guard against other types of scams or protect you from physical danger if you meet offline. Remember, just because an account is verified doesn’t mean you should trust them.
Pay attention to location tracking
Many dating apps use location tracking to send you possible matches in your area. While it’s great to meet people who are local, make sure you have control over this setting and feel comfortable with that information being public. Whether you live alone or with others, it’s never a good idea to let strangers know exactly where you’re located.
Be careful when linking the app to social media
Many dating apps, like Bumble and Tinder, let you link your social media profile to your dating profile. For the most part, this is harmless but can be risky if you post details about your life on social media. For example, if you’re a parent who posts pictures of your kids on Instagram, it’s best not to link your social media to your profile. Even if you block people on the dating app, they can still find you on social media if they’re angry you cut them off.
Use different photos for your dating site and social media profiles
When crafting your dating profile, avoid using the same photos that you use on your social media accounts. It’s easy for scammers to reverse image search your photo and quickly find your social media.
While you’re at it, learn how to manage your camera roll with online photo storage.
Be wary of romance scams
Romance scams are devised to prey on the emotional vulnerability of people looking for love. Cybercriminals steal photos of attractive individuals and message people on social media or dating apps with the aim of kindling a romantic relationship. Their goal is usually to trick their victim into sending them money and gifts. They can accomplish this through:
- Deep, caring conversations
- Private photos and videos
- Promises of meeting in person
- Marriage proposals
To avoid falling prey to this scheme, be wary of strangers who approach you online. Always trust your instincts when meeting new people on the internet, especially on social media. If the man or woman of your dreams shows up out of nowhere and comes on far too strong, there’s a good chance you’re being targeted by a scam.
Leave out personal details
On dating apps, you should never give out personal information like your social security number, bank account information, or passwords. But you should also be careful with personal details about your life, such as your last name, work address, contact information, and social media handles. All of these details can easily be used to track down your location. If someone untrustworthy comes across your profile, you don’t want them to have this information about your life.
While you’re at it, you might want to tighten security on your social media profiles. You can make your Instagram account private and make your Facebook profile viewable to friends only. This way, if someone from the app searches for your accounts, they won’t be able to see your personal information.
Block and report suspicious users
Trust your gut. If you feel that another user isn’t who they claim to be or is acting suspiciously, you should report them to the app and block their account from messaging you again.
Here are some examples of suspicious behavior on dating apps:
- Asking for financial assistance, such as for a sudden personal crisis
- Requesting photographs or videos
- Pressuring you to give them your phone number, address, or other personal information
- Obsessive behavior
- Disappearing from the app and creating new accounts
- Trying to sell you products or services
If someone you match with on a dating app does any of these things, you should block and report them to protect yourself and other users.
Be cautious when meeting in real life
If you decide to meet someone from the internet in person, there’s a whole new set of rules for staying safe. One of the most important rules to remember is to always meet in a public place that you feel comfortable in, such as a restaurant. Avoid secluded areas like parks, and always tell someone where you’re going and who you’ll be with. Staying safe—online and in real life—is always the top priority.
Staying safe online
Now that you know how to safely navigate dating apps, it’s time to check out your matches and craft the perfect first message. As you chat and connect, remember these safety tips and be cautious of strangers. Learning how to stay safe online can improve your experience and keep your personal information secure—and maybe even save your life someday.