10 Tips for Staying Safe While Online Dating

10 Tips for Staying Safe While Online Dating

It’s a virtual match! With the rise of apps like Tinder, Bumble, Grindr, etc., not to mention the conventional online dating websites, finding the love of your life through the magic of the internet has never been easier. The dating scene has been transformed over the last few years, and especially during lockdown where in-person meetings were severely limited or impossible. In fact, has calculated that 53% of singles have joined the bandwagon and created their own, personal dating profiles. But whilst dating apps can feel like the Holy Grail to those who don’t have the spare time or ability to seek out potential partners in bars or through friends, there also come with some downsides (well, doesn’t everything?). It makes sense, doesn’t it? You have NO idea who you are really talking to, or planning to meet up with. We only have to glance back to the Suzy Lamplugh case to see the shivering dangers of meeting someone you don’t know. In her case she was an estate agent who went to meet a client at a property, but the circumstances were very similar as meeting someone online and arranging for a drink. Here are some tips for staying safe while dipping your toe into the dating online pool.

  • 1.Do a little background research. You don’t have to go all stalker-y, just a quick Google will probably give you most of the salient details. This will help you verify that they are who they say they are. At worst they could be a prolific sex offender, at best married. Weed things out as much as you can, especially look for a photo, or photos.
  • 2.Talk to them on the phone before your first date and preferably more than once. You can tell a lot through a person’s voice, and if you schedule evening phone calls and they agree, that might signal that they aren’t living with a partner already. It’s not a watertight test, but if someone is a bit cagey about speaking in the evenings and only wants to during the day, that should ring at least some alarm bells. Most people would prefer a relaxed chat after work.
  • 3.Once you’ve done the phone thing, then a video call is the next thing you should arrange. Not only do you get to see how attractive you find he/she, but it also stops you being catfished (where you meet someone online who is not who they say they are). If you’re not convinced that you’ll want to kiss them, then this move cuts out you wasting your time and you can say a polite ‘no’ to getting to know them further.
  • 4.Always sort your own transportation. It might be greener to share a lift with your date, but seriously don’t do this. Number 1: you’re not in charge of where you go. You could end up somewhere secluded, miles from home or even a house you’re not familiar with, and how many films have we seen where the layout of the house prevents an escape? Exactly. Number 2: if you agree to let them pick you up they’ll know where you live which can be very dodgy if things go wrong. So, always make your own way there for a first date, definitely. Drive if you can or take public transport – anything that means you get there under your own steam.
  • 5.Meet in a public place. This one goes without saying, but make sure you choose somewhere where there are typically big crowds. Shopping centres, ice rinks, street markets, etc. A cosy date in the cinema might seem a nice idea, but you don’t want to compromise your safety. Always make sure there are plenty of others around.
  • 6.Tell someone else the details. Again, a pretty obvious one. You might be coy about the fact that you’re online dating (even though that’s how the vast majority of people meet their partners these days), but don’t let that stop you telling someone else where you’re going, when and with whom. It could just save your life. Another step to keep yourself safe is to arrange a code word with a friend or family that you can use if you think you’re in danger. It’s very similar to having that old sudden, get-out phone call – just a level up.
  • 7.Don’t give out too much personal info. Watch what you say and the details you reveal. Giving out your address or work location is a big no-no, you need to make sure that this person can’t find you if it all goes wrong. You probably need to hand over your mobile number but that’s fine because you can block them. Don’t accept any social media invitations (Facebook, Insta, LinkedIn, etc.). Basically, keep yourself as anonymous as you can.
  • 8.Carry pepper spray. This might sound a little OTT, but having that first line of self-defence within arm’s reach could potentially save you from getting involved in a seriously nasty situation.
  • 9.Stay sober. It might be tempting to ease the awkwardness of a first date with alcohol, but don’t do it. Drinking cocktails with a stranger definitely compromises your safety, not only could you make some bad decisions, but you’re also opening yourself up to having something slipped into your drink.
  • 10.Having sex on a first date is not a good idea – you don’t know their sexual history, or sexual predilections, you don’t know what you’re letting yourself in for, basically. But if you’re sure that it could be a possibility that you’re comfortable with, then always provide the condoms/dental dams yourself, don’t rely on your partner. It’s only this way that you can know that they’re in date, not tampered with and suitable for you to use (if you have a latex allergy, for example).

Getting into the dating game is fun and exciting, whether it’s your first foray or you’re returning to it. Keep it fun and exciting by looking after yourself, don’t risk it turning it into something nasty. Remember – safety first. 

Stuart Brown
Doctor of Sexual Health at the NHS Royal London Hospital & Relationship Expert. Columnist at An advocate of safe sex. Avid Arsenal fan.

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