Feeling a little lonely, but don’t know how to get back in the dating game? Gone are the days of awkward small talk in bars and blind date arrangements made by friends. You can pick up your phone and join any number of online dating websites and apps to find the man or woman of your dreams.
Introverts everywhere rejoice at this idea — it’s fun, convenient, and less anxiety-inducing than the alternative. But you should be aware of the risks you’re taking when you meet others on the internet.
Just how risky is online dating?
You probably won’t meet a serial killer online — hooray! But according to Phactual, 1 out of every 10 sex offenders dates online, and 10% of all dating profiles on free websites are total scams. On top of that, in 2005, 25% of rapists used online dating to seek out their next victims.
This is all focusing on the negative, of course — you probably know someone who successfully met their husband or wife on Match.com and has since lived happily ever after. But after you hear this horror story, you’ll really want to be careful.
Your date might bury you alive
Back in 2014, 25-year-old Mina El Houari was buried alive by her date when they finally met in person, HuffPost reports. Her and her date had been talking online for months, and the day they finally met, she went into a diabetic coma. Her date thought she dropped dead out of nowhere — so his wise solution was burying her body in his backyard. She then suffocated to death in the makeshift grave.
Your online dating experiences probably (hopefully) won’t end like this, but even so, it pays to be safe. Here’s what else may occur, and what to do about it.
Your date may use your photo to find personal information
Maybe you don’t pepper your profile with personal information, but you may not realize those who are looking at your picture can find an awful lot about you with just that. Do yourself a favor and take a totally separate image of yourself just for your online dating life, and don’t use it anywhere else on the internet, xoJane warns. Why? Potential suitors can run a Google Image Search on your image. If you’ve used that picture elsewhere on the internet, those pages will surely pop up.
Do your own research on who your date may be
Trust is important in any relationship. But before the romance really begins, make sure you find out all you can about your date. Yes, this means snooping online. Celebrity chef Devin Alexander tells the Los Angeles Times this is her go-to when she meets a potential match on the web. She says she’s even seen pictures of her online dates’ engagement announcement — not something you want to get involved in.
Don’t, under any circumstances, give your online date money
You probably assume you’d never give a random person you met online money, but still — let this one sink in. The Federal Trade Commission warns many online scammers will form relationships with you and then tug at your heartstrings with fake stories of needing money. Even worse, some of these scammers will go as far as to meet you in person, “date” you for awhile, and involve you in online bank fraud once trust is built. If the person you’re dating ever asks you to set up a new bank account or wire money out of the country, know something’s up.
Ask your date the same question multiple times
Want to know if your date is lying to you? Garth Bruen, a security fellow of the Digital Citizens Alliance, tells U.S. News & World Report this tactic is known as “playing detective.” You should ask your date a question, note their answer, and then later ask them the same question in a new way. Do their answers line up? If not, be wary.
You won’t make your best judgment when you’re drinking
This may seem obvious, but it’s still worth mentioning. When you finally take the plunge and meet a date in person, stay sober. Dating and relationship coach Jonathon Aslay tells eHarmony you might trust your intuition a little too much when meeting someone in person, letting your guard down as if you’re meeting an old friend again. Remember: You still have a lot to learn about your date. Don’t drink enough to cloud your judgment.