Online dating has become a lot more popular due to COVID-19. While it is a great way to connect with people, there are some risks to connecting with people virtually. Here are some precautions that you can take to help protect yourself.
- Don’t Give out Your Real Phone Number
You can get a free Google Voice number. It allows you to check your calls, voicemail, and messages without using your real number. You can also request that you continue to communicate via the app you originally met through – some apps offer additional accountability and protection.
- Do Your Research
Googling someone’s name can help ensure that you aren’t being “catfished”. “Catfishers”, or people who misrepresent themselves online, often make fake social media accounts to set up their dating profile. If the person you have been talking to has no bio, only one picture, and no linked accounts, it may be a fake account. Here are some extra tips on how to avoid being catfished.
- Video Chat/Talk on the Phone
Video chatting can offer an opportunity to see the person you are talking to in real-time from the safety of your home. If someone resists a video call, that could be a warning sign. Phone calls are another good way to get a sense of the person you are connecting with. Both of these methods may assist you in picking up certain visual or verbal cues that may have been otherwise hidden through text messages.
- Don’t Give Out Too Much Personal Information
Be careful about the information you share. Never give someone your social security number, credit card details, bank information, or work or home address. And, don’t give out places you normally visit, your family members’ locations, your birthday and other personal information too quickly. Once you get to know the person a little better and feel more comfortable, you can share more about yourself.
No one should feel pressured to share or do anything they wouldn’t under normal circumstances. And remember, what is said and shared electronically or by video, is not something you can withdraw and delete.
- Beware of Scams
Scammers use a variety of ways to build trust and sympathy so they can manipulate others. They may ask for financial assistance for a variety of reasons, often because of a sudden personal crisis. No matter how convincing and compelling someone’s reason may seem, never respond to a request to send money, especially overseas or via wire transfer.
- Don’t Rush to Meet In-Person
The way we connect with people has changed dramatically over the last couple of months with the spread of COVID-19. And, with COVID-19 still an active public safety hazard, the CDC guidelines recommend that there be no in-person contact and that when interacting, people maintain a 6-foot social distance.
So, virtual dates are one way to ‘meet’ right now and there are many different ways to do so. Online daters are having virtual drinks and/or meals over video chat, cooking together, watching movies and shows, taking virtual walks, hikes, and even canoe rides!
- Tell Someone Else the Details
If you do plan on meeting someone in-person, share that person’s information, and where and when you’re meeting with a trusted friend or family member. If the date continues and you go somewhere else that you hadn’t planned on, text your friend and let them know about your new location. It can also be helpful to have a friend call you during your date or plan to check in with them after you get home.
- Drive Yourself or Take Public Transportation
Don’t accept an invitation to ride together – take your own vehicle or use public transportation if possible. It’s important that you are in control of your own transportation to and from the date so that you can leave whenever you want and not have to rely on your date in case you start feeling uncomfortable.
Also, make sure you have data on your phone and it’s fully charged, or consider bringing your charger or a portable battery with you.
- Meet Up in a Public Place
For the first date or two, avoid going somewhere private with your date. Instead, meet at a public place where there are plenty of people around, like a coffee shop or restaurant. In the event that you feel uncomfortable, there will be other people around who can help.
- MOST IMPORTANTLY: Trust Your Instincts
If you feel uncomfortable, trust your instincts. If someone you are talking to pressures you to do something that could put you in harm’s way or is outside of your comfort zone, that is warning sign that they may not be concerned with your safety.
For more tips of dating safely online during Covid-19 and beyond, check out the Online Dating Association Here and Here, and email or call the advocates at the Women’s Freedom Center if you need additional safety planning or assistance. We are here to help!