Online safety

In today’s fast paced world it might not always be possible to find that special someone during our day to day lives. So it’s only natural that we may turn to online dating to find people who share our interests.

Things you may encounter with online dating sites

Although it can be exciting dating and meeting new people, there are some things that you should bear in mind when meeting people online.

Profiles are very easy to create, and although you may think it a waste of time to create a ‘fake’ profile, the sad truth is that people do, do this and there are a lot of reasons why:

  • Stalk or harass other users
  • To pretend they are someone they are not
  • To spam, sell things or commit fraud
  • To blackmail (e.g. if they have recorded you doing something on camera, they could exploit you)
  • To create Phishing emails and claim to be from the dating site then asking for personal information.
  • Theft if you do not use a secure link when making online payment 

The important thing to remember is that if you believe someone is using a ‘fake’ profile, then you should report them immediately with any evidence you may have.

Choosing a site

With so many types of dating site available, making sure that the site you choose is the right one for you isn’t always as easy as it sounds.

Choosing the right one will likely increase your chances of meeting someone with similar interests and limit your chances of coming across ‘fake’ profiles.

You should try to choose a well-known dating service which is reputable and who may have additional safety measures you haven’t heard of. These sites should:

  • Not share your personal information
  • Enforce policies to protect users against inappropriate use

Privacy

It is important to make sure that you protect your privacy and don’t give out any personal information.

If you are unsure about the information you are being asked to provide then remember that you don’t have to give that information, it is your choice. Do not let people pressure you into giving out any information you don’t want to:

  • Do not give out any personal information, such as phone numbers, address etc
  • Wait until you feel comfortable/trust an individual before telling them things like your phone number, address or place or work
  • Be wary about removing clothes or performing in front of your webcam – you never know if the other party is recording 
  • Choose a user name that does not include personal information. For example, “Simon-Jones” or “Judy-in-Salford” would tell other users either your full name or where you live.

Meeting in Person

If you have been chatting to someone online and you decide to meet in person, there are a few things that will help you stay safe:

  • Arrange to meet in a public place and make sure you stay somewhere public
  • Do not get in a car with your date
  • Tell a friend or family member who you are meeting, where you are going and when you are expected to be back – if your plans change, make sure you update them with a text message or phone call
  • Be aware of your alcohol intake and do not leave drinks unattended
  • Make sure your mobile phone is fully charged, keep it switched on and with you at all times

Talk to us!

The Lesbian & Gay Foundation are currently undertaking online safety 'netreach' with a number of well-known gay and bisexual men's online dating sites. We're hoping to extend this in the future to lesbian and bisexual sites too. If you have any questions about this email men@lgf.org.uk.

Further information

Some interesting general and safety tips over at Huffington Post for everyone venturing into the online dating world.

For women: http://www.pinksofa.com/Safety.asp

For men: http://gaylife.about.com/od/dating/a/Safe-Online-Dating.htm