What are the best ways for singles to keep safe when they are searching for love online?
Recent horrific stories like the Jason Lawrance Match.com rape case have brought online dating’s safety under the spotlight once again, as all sides seek to take steps to prevent similar ordeals from happening in the future.
Speaking in court after Lawrance’s conviction, Judge Dickinson hoped that “lessons can be learned” from the case regarding online daters’ safety.
And as dating sites look into its own incident reporting procedures, anti-fraud technology and user feedback features, fraud detection company Scamalytics offered some tips for consumers about staying safe online.
Co-founder Nick Tsinonis gave some general advice for consumers informed by the company’s years of fighting fraud and criminality on dating sites.
Chat with people on the dating site
“It’s really important to keep all dialogue restricted to the messaging services on the website. Don’t give someone you don’t know your phone number or personal email address,” Tsinonis said.
This is because the behaviour of dating site users can be monitored by the company, so if someone becomes abusive or inappropriate, the site can respond accordingly.
In its statement on the Lawrance case, Match.com said this was why they couldn’t delete the man from the site, despite the fact that users had reported him as dangerous.
The IAC-owned site said: “Our policy has always been to encourage our members to communicate with others within our site/app, where we can offer a degree of protection.
“When people move beyond what we are able to see, it is very difficult for us to adjudicate on what might have happened.
“At the time of this offence, we therefore took the view that we could only act on events which we could verify, such as written messages.”
Block problem users
“You also have the ability to block someone on a dating site messaging system. If you keep conversations strictly on the site, scammers are unlikely to target you, because they know the dating site will detect their behaviour.”
Get to know your matches over time
“When you meet someone, you can quickly feel like you know them really well, because it’s often easier to connect in writing, and to read more into the written word than the spoken word. This can mean you rush into things, and relationships may move quicker than you expect.
“Always bear in mind that the other person is a stranger. Take your time to really get to know someone, and ensure he or she is who they say they are.”
Ask a friend for advice
“If you even get a gut feeling that something is not quite right, ask a friend for advice and their opinion. Sometimes our mind can trick us into thinking we’ve met the “perfect” match, when in fact we are being conned by a scam artist,” the Scamalytics co-founder said.
Research people online
“Don’t be afraid to research someone you meet online. Use Google Images to check whether the photos they are using belong to someone else, and check social media sites to ensure they really exist. You can also search for sentences and phrases online, in case they are using a known fake profile. If something doesn’t feel right, don’t be afraid to just stop talking to someone.”
Remember your date is a stranger
Regarding tips for staying safe when offline, The Dating Awards founder Charly Lester also offered some advice, saying:
“Anyone you meet online is a stranger, and you need to remember that, even if you’re on a second or third date. Never leave your drink or your bag unattended, and always meet in a public place. Let someone else know where you are, and check back in with that person at the end of the date. Never accept a lift home from your date — either drive, or use public transport to get home.
“Also remember that bringing someone home is no safer than going to someone else’s house. You’re still inviting a stranger into your home.
“Online dating can be a great way to meet people you would never had chance to meet otherwise, but there are nasty people in the world, and online dating is just one of many ways you may come across those nasty people.
“Always keep your wits about you, and if you ever feel uncomfortable, don’t be afraid to just get up and leave. Your safety is of paramount importance.”
Find out more about Scamalytics here.