Is online dating dangerous? Should rules and policies be made stricter by dating sites?
In this paper, we examine the behaviors and experiences of people who use online dating and how they may or may not address risk in their use of online dating. Fifteen people who used online dating took part in in-depth, online chat interviews. We found that online daters use a variety of methods for managing and understanding the risks they perceived to be associated with online dating. Online daters compared the risks of online dating with other activities in their lives to justify their use of the medium. Many felt self-conﬁdent in their personal ability to manage and limit any risks they might encounter and, for some, the ability to be able to scapegoat risk (that is to blame others) was a method by which they could contextualize their own experiences and support their risk strategies. For many, the control offered by the online environment was central to risk management. Additionally, the social context in which an individual encountered a potential risk would shape how they perceived the risk and responded to it. People who use online dating do consider the risks involved and they demonstrate personal autonomy in their risk management. From a public health perspective, it is important to understand how risk is experienced from an individual perspective, but any interventions must be implemented at a population level.
Keywords: Online dating, danger, safety services and policy
With our lives getting busier and busier, meeting people is becoming increasingly difficult. We have less and less free time to devote to our own needs, it seems, and the result is more and more single people who simply don’t have the time to find that special someone. This is what makes online dating so attractive. From the comfort of your own home (or even your bed), you can do a little bit of “comparison shopping,” so to speak, where you get a chance to look at profiles of other people who, like you, just want to meet someone and make a partnership together. This convenient form of meetings is becoming increasingly popular, but it is also fraught with some dangers. Because there are so many people out there who are looking to run everything from scams to violent crime, though, it is just as important to be careful when dating online as it is to meet people out and about.
Online dating is getting more and more popular every single year. I remember ten years ago when hardly any people were using dating sites or applications. Now it seems like everybody and their mother is on Tinder, eHarmony, or Match.com!
The exploding popularity of online dating websites brings lots of people that are looking to take advantage of others. Understanding sexual behaviors, including sexual behaviors and interests portrayed and sought online, is relevant to public health, as risk factors for sexually transmitted infections are directly related to patterns of sexual behavior (Over and Piot 1996). Worldwide, sexually transmitted infections are a major cause of infertility, acute illness, long-term disability and death; they also cause considerable psychological and medical consequences for individuals (World Health Organization 2001). The incidence of sexually transmitted infections has been increasing in many countries, including Australia (Mindel and Kippax 2005). In Australia, in 2004 there were 46,762 sexually transmitted infection notiﬁcations; a threefold increase compared to 15,355 notiﬁcations in 1997 (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2006). However, this increase may be due to more sensitive diagnostic tests and increases in screening rates (Miller et al . 200 5). Sexual behavior varies within countries and between continents (Over and Piot1996 ), but the highest rates of sexually transmitted infections are most commonly found in men and women aged between 15 and 35 years, who live in urban areas (World Health Organization 2001).
What are all the Dangers of Online Dating?
This section will be broken down into two primary parts. The first section is about the severe risks of online dating. The second section will talk about online dating dangers that are not as severe such as people lying or being deceiving with their information on their profiles.
People are Online to Scam
About one in 10 people are using online dating websites to try to scam other people. These include tons of different fake profiles that are extremely easy to create especially on free dating websites such as Tinder, OkCupid, and POF.
There are different levels to people scamming others online. One of the most common ways is trying to get money from the other person. They do this by creating a relationship and building trust. After a period a significant “accident” happens, and they need to ask for money.
This sadly happens more often than one would think. And unfortunately, a lot of people fall for this type of scam because they have built an “emotional relationship” with the scammer.
When you’re online, give limited information about your family and friends and report suspicious behaviors for online dating safety.
One way to avoid online scammers is to stick to paid dating websites such as eHarmony or match.com. Online scammers are much less likely to pay for a service as they are people that don’t like to pay for anything.
A good way to meet an online dater and stay safe is to use a paid service.
In 2011 there was a reported $50 million lost by victims of online scams. As online dating gets more and more popular, these dating websites will be hubs for people trying to scam users out of money.
The danger is real
Before jumping into the guidance, however, it’s really important to stress that we’re not simply making this stuff up — the danger from scammers online is very real.
Not only does one report after another highlight how many people are being duped by scammers every year, but we’ve had many members of Stitch tell us their stories about how they’ve lost money themselves.
My favorite story is that of Maria*, one of our members who lost close to $10,000 to a scammer from Ghana. She met me for coffee not long after joining Stitch and showed me a 90-page dossier she had prepared for me. She wanted me to truly understand how the scammers worked.
You see, after being stung, she was so upset that she went back to night school and trained as a private investigator. Her specialty? You guessed it: cyber-security, with a focus on fighting scammers.
This was Maria’s way of getting back at those who had hurt her. She shared dozens of stories of men and women who had lost far more than she had to sophisticated online scams. Some victims had ended up in jail, after being unwittingly duped into committing crimes themselves.
Most amazing were the images of scammers boasting about their exploits online, flashing photos of the cash they had stolen, and sharing tips with fellow scammers on online forums and Facebook groups. Even if only one person in a thousand falls for their scams, it’s still worth their time.
Our 10 Safety Tips for Online Dating
1. Do Your Research
Everyone should know the drill- do a simple Google search before meeting your date. That doesn’t mean become a stalker, that just means make sure you have at least some idea as to who the person is before you meet with him or her. If possible, try to find pictures and see what additional information comes up about the person beyond Facebook and Instagram.
2. Use a Google Voice Number Instead of Your Own
To take your safety a step further, get a free Google Voice phone number. With the Google Voice app, you’re able to check your calls, voicemails, and messages without giving out your real number. You can also block anyone who comes across a little “sketch”. Keep your number secure and only for people, you feel comfortable with.
3. Video Chat Your Date Before Meeting
Today, there are so many ways to video chat with the ability to use FaceTime, Google Hangouts, Skype, and even Facebook for video calls. It’s a good idea to get a glimpse of your date before meeting him or her. This could also help to reduce the risk of being “catfished” by someone claiming to be someone he or she is not.
4. Chat by Phone Before the First Date
Go “old-school” and reach out by phone before your first date. Why is this a good idea? Talking by phone allows you to hear the other individual and to pick up on certain verbal cues that may be hidden through instant messaging or texts, Additionally, this gives you the chance to feel out the individual better before the first meeting.
5. Drive Yourself or Take Public Transportation
Don’t accept the invitation to carpool- take your vehicle or use public transportation if possible. Dating app CoffeeMeetsBagel also shares this tip for online dating safety since by carpooling, your first date would find out where you live and essentially have control over where you two go. Taking your vehicle also lowers the risk of putting yourself in an uncomfortable or even dangerous situation because you’ll be in control over where you go.
6. 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 restaurant, cafe, skating rink, or another place where there’s typically a good crowd. If you feel uncomfortable, there will be other people around who can help. Additionally, this allows a family member or friend to be present or in the vicinity should something go wrong. As another great tip, if you visit a bar or restaurant, let a bartender or waitress know if things aren’t going right on your date through code. Some bars have secret codes like asking for an “Angel Shot” that guests could use to notify a staff member that something’s off-key.
7. Tell Someone Else the Deets
That brings us to the next tip- let someone else know who your date is, where you are going when you expect to be home, and any other important details. eHarmony suggests always doing this in their list of tips for a safe and successful first date. It gives you the comfort of knowing someone else knows where you’re supposed to be if something goes wrong.
8. Don’t Give Out Too Much Personal Info. Upfront
Bumble offers this important dating safety tip: be careful about the information you share. Don’t give out places you normally visit, your family members’ locations, your birthday, and other personal information so quickly. After you and your date get to know each other a little better and feel more comfortable, then you can share a little more about yourself.
9. Carry Pepper Spray
Should things go wrong on your date, it’s better to be prepared than not, so consider carrying a can of pepper spray. Hopefully, you won’t have to use this, but as the saying goes, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Also, be sure that you know how to use your pepper spray should you decide to carry it.
10. Stay Sober
One big mistake that people tend to make while meeting an online date is drinking without being mindful that their date might not have the best intentions. As almost 50 million people online dating today. However, with the landscape of dating changing, it’s still important to keep your safety in mind when meeting with people you don’t know very well.
While women may seem like the only individuals whose safety is at risk, men also need to be cautious with online dating. The National Domestic Violence Hotline reports that “[m]ore than 1 in 3 women (35.6%) and more than 1 in 4 men (28.5%) in the United States have experienced rape, physical violence and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime”.
Keep your safety first and foremost. We hope these 10 tips will not only help with your first date but also any dates that follow as you search for your “special someone”.
What dating services can do to help reduce dangers
So now that we know of all the risks of online dating that are lurking out there, what can dating websites do to protect their users?
The first step that they can take is making the sign-up process more difficult. As it currently stands, all you need is an e-mail address to be able to sign up for a lot of these free dating websites.
It is incredibly easy to create a new e-mail address. There is no limit to how many e-mail addresses one can have. Thus, there is no limit to the number of fake profiles one can make to take advantage of others.
Facebook.com has taken fake profiles very seriously, and sometimes they require an official form of ID to verify you are who you are. This is the step that dating websites need to take in the future.
Not only will it prevent fake profiles and fewer scammers, who also show the real identity of delinquents and make them think twice about signing up for a dating website.
The next thing that the dating website can do is to implement some background check service into their dating website. This will help people see the history of their potential match on a dating website. This will be another deterrent towards delinquents signing up.
Online dating has become an extended service across technological societies. The present review is the first attempt to gather empirical findings regarding the use of online dating services (sites and smartphone applications) and problematic use of online dating. Findings in this review indicate that there is personality correlates such as sociability, sensation-seeking, sexual permissiveness, and anxious attachment that correlate to greater use of online dating. Self-esteem enhancement and sex-search motives have been related to problematic use of online dating (more specifically of the dating app Tinder). Other results indicate that users consider online dating as more dangerous than offline (i.e. traditional) dating, as well as more objectifying. Additionally, online dating services facilitate casual encounters (i.e. hook-up dates) which represent a public health concern in terms of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and substance use (alcohol and recreational drugs). There is a lot that needs to change to reduce the number of malicious users on dating services. Your profile iskey to success on online dating websites!
People who use online dating services are aware of the potential risks they might experience, which is why they must not ignore their gut feeling or any warning signs noted during interaction online.
There aren’t tons of things that dating services need to be proactive about to protect their members. On the other hand, we need to use our common sense and be able to detect fraud when it is happening.
You must understand the pros and cons of online dating with the red flag been raised by users finding true love or new relationships on internet dating sites.
As you thrive to avoid the dangers of using free online dating websites, use our ultimate guide to create an online dating profile that will not get flagged on legit dating websites.
- Ajzen, I. (1991). The theory of planned behavior. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 50(2), 179–211. https://doi.org/10.1016/0749-5978(91)90020-T.
- Baker, A.J. Double Click: Romance and Commitment Among Online Couples. Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press.
- Australian Bureau of Statistics (2004) Australia Now: Measures of a Knowledge-based Economy and Society, Australia.
- Information and Communications Technology Indicators (Canberra: Australian Bureau of Statistics).
- Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2006) Australia’s Health 2006 (Canberra: Australian Government).
AUTHOR – SWETA KUMARI