Safer online dating
There are ways to keep yourself safer when online dating, including being aware of your behaviour and how your devices work and how scammers operate.
- Don’t use your real name. Limit the amount of personal information you share with someone you meet online until you get to know them, preferably in person. This means that you should not share email or home addresses, phone numbers or details such as where you work or whether you have children until you have met them in person many times, and are comfortable they are who they claim to be and are a decent person (as far as you can tell). You should feel very safe with someone before you share any of this.
- Use a different profile photo to any other photo you have online or on a social networking site. This will stop someone finding you, and information about you, when they do an image search. You don’t want them to find you through the same photo on another site.
- Take your time getting to know someone online. Ask them lots of questions and make sure you feel comfortable and trust them before meeting them.
- Only add them as a friend on social media when you really trust them, as this gives them information about where you live, your family and friends. It also gives them a lot of other personal information such as where you go for holidays, where you hang out, who your friends are and, for those who are mums, information about your children.
- If you decide to meet someone, do it in a public place. Share their profile with a friend and tell them where you are meeting. Shopping centres, cafés, and restaurants are good meeting places as there are always a lot of people nearby. Never meet at a secluded spot or someone else’s place – stay in public spaces ...
- Have a backup plan when meeting someone for the first time. Have your own transport or way home. Tell someone where you are meeting, and share your details, such as a phone number with a friend. It’s even safer to take a friend with you on the first meeting. If you feel uncomfortable on a first meeting, make up an excuse and leave (‘Sorry I can’t stay long … I have a meeting in the morning’). You don’t have to stay in a situation to be polite.
- Trust your gut feelings. If something doesn’t feel right, then it probably isn’t. Don’t second guess yourself – if you are in doubt, leave as soon as possible.
- If you have friends on the same online dating site, ask them if they know of any profiles that are not okay so you can reject them when they contact you.
- If you do come across suspicious profiles, requests or behaviours then report them to the site.
Computers and devices
- Turn location services off when using dating apps, and don’t share any photos or videos that carry location information. If you aren’t sure, don’t share that photo or video: turn location services off and take another photo to share.
- Set up another email address from an online service such as Gmail, Hotmail, Outlook or Yahoo. Ensure that the email address doesn’t contain your real name, so it harder for someone to track you down, especially if your email address is a work address.
- Block anyone who behaves badly. Don’t respond to threats, sexual behaviour, photos or videos that make you feel uncomfortable. Block and report them.
- Make sure your computer has a secure password, up-to-date anti-virus software and a firewall to prevent someone using the online dating site to access your personal details or computer.
Find out more about computer and device security at Stay Smart Online and our page on Securing your accounts and devices.
- If someone asks you to send money online, no matter how genuine it sounds, the person is probably a scammer. Do not send money.
- Sometimes people will declare their love for you after only a short time after meeting you online. Such affection is unlikely to be true. Write them off and move on.
Remember to keep your computer or other device secure. Make sure your computer has a secure password, up-to-date anti-virus and a firewall to prevent someone using the online dating site to access your personal details and computer. Find out more about computer and device security at Stay Smart Online and our page on Securing your accounts and devices.
If you are in immediate danger, call Triple Zero (000) now.
If someone you have met online has threatened you, or made you feel unsafe in some other way, report them and block them. Keep any evidence of their behaviour, for example, make a calendar entry and take screen shots.
If you have started a relationship with someone who makes you feel unsafe: tell friends and family, look at our pages on eSafety planning, use our eSafety tips, contact 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732) to make a safety plan, and contact the police.
If the person you met online accesses images or videos of children who are naked or being sexually abused, you can report them to the police.
Look at our Are you being cyberstalked? page if you think you are being cyberstalked by someone you have met online.
Tips and suggestions for keeping safe
Follow the golden rule: meet in a public place
Meet in a public place such as a shopping centre, popular café or restaurant, or at a social function (football or other sports) where there are many people nearby. Never choose to meet for the first time at a quiet spot or a house.
If the other person changes the meeting place at the last minute to somewhere you don’t know, cancel the date and try again another time. If they do it again then try someone else.
Always tell someone else – a friend or family member – who you are meeting and where.
If you make your own way there and home, don’t park somewhere that seems unsafe. Consider asking a friend to give you a lift for the first couple of dates – it may be safer.
Leave if it feels wrong
Arrange with a friend to check in. Consider asking some friends to be nearby for the first date, and have them call you at an agreed time to check that you are okay. That way, if you want to leave the date you can pretend the phone call is about a family member who is not well and therefore you must leave.
Google the person you are planning to meet before you meet them. This can act as a background check in the first instance, but also it can verify or disprove claims and statements made at the initial meeting, or it may confirm any suspicions you might have.
Avoid sharing too many of your details too soon – your address, where you work, favourite restaurants or clubs, and family life and children – until you get to know the person better. Wait a while before linking up on social media as this has more information about you.