The dating scene has gone through extreme changes during the past few years. Statistics show that almost 32 million Americans use online dating sites and apps. 39 percent of heterosexual couples met online in 2017. While online dating may help as a shortcut to find like-minded people, it can also be dangerous, especially for women. It is estimated that almost 21% of male dating profiles are false or have misleading information. But, does this mean you should not go on a date with someone you met online? Definitely not. There are millions of happy, successful couples that started at an online dating site. It only means that you should be more careful.

If you found someone interesting and you are considering to meet in person, conduct a background check. You can use a service like CheckPeople.com and get a comprehensive report that includes known addresses, public records, and sex offenders registry. Then, consider the following:

  1. Social Media: check social media profiles and make sure that profile pictures and other relevant information corresponds to what you know from the dating site. While some people may not be dangerous, they can be married or be hiding important facts.
  2. Search Engines: running a search engine check can give you valuable insights. Consider searching for images using the person’s profile picture on the dating site. Cross-reference information with what you found on social media.
  3. If you feel that messages or emails from your potential date seem too elaborate, cut and paste a paragraph and check if they are using a script. This should be a huge red flag.

Before a date, consider the following:

  • Start with a video call, so you are sure that the person you are meeting is who they say they are. If someone refuses to have a video call prior to a date, it is an important red flag.
  • Always let a friend or family member know where you’ll be, and if you decide to go somewhere else, keep them posted. A good idea is to use a geolocalization app such as Life360, or even sharing your location via Whatsapp or Messenger. Always make sure your phone has enough battery.
  • Meet in a public place, preferably somewhere in which people (waiters, staff members) recognize you and can help you if you need it.
  • If you are going somewhere else with your date, use public transportation, taxi, or Uber. Refuse to get into their car or use yours.
  • Try to avoid alcohol on the first date, as well as inviting them over to your place or going to theirs.
  • Pay attention to how they treat staff: leave if there is any sign of violence.
  • Never give away personal information, such as credit card or social security numbers. There is an important rise in identity theft cases that happen through dating apps.

Older adults are especially vulnerable to dating site scams, so if an older relative is considering online dating, you should be attentive and help them determine the other person’s identity and conduct a background check. Help them set boundaries that include:

  1. Not giving away personal information before meeting in person
  2. Never answering dating proposals from strangers on social media
  3. Never agree to send money to someone they have not met
  4. Never agree to communicate outside of dating sites before meeting in person
  5. Never send intimate pictures that can be used for extortion

While the online dating universe can be exciting and full of true romance opportunities, you should always be careful. Even if your first few dates were perfect, never agree to continue seeing someone that displays violent behaviors or asks for you to do anything that makes you feel uncomfortable. Be wary of someone who asks for money after a few dates (a lot of scammers wait until the other person trusts them to attack) even if what they tell you seems true (they need surgery, or they are being evicted, etc.) Remember that the most important aspect to consider is your own safety, so if something feels off or you feel uncomfortable in any way, you should end all contact. With so many people looking for a relationship, there will surely be someone out there for you.