This is a guest opinion piece by Charly Lester, the founder of The Dating Awards.
For the past few years, I’ve straddled the line of journalist and someone who works within the dating industry. I’ve written dating advice and articles about the industry for most national papers and magazines, whilst also working for numerous dating sites and apps and running The Dating Awards.
Every morning, Google Alerts about the dating industry appear in my inbox, and day after day, I find myself reading about scammers and sexual predators. Increasingly, these are the stories about online dating which make it into the papers and onto news sites. Yes, we know that the bad stories are in the minority. And that if they are increasing, it’s only because the population dating online had grown so dramatically in recent years. We also all know that for every bad story, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of happy endings, all thanks to dating sites. But we also know that these bad things do happen. And these sensationalist stories will sell papers, and encourage page views.
Don’t get me wrong – the bad stories do need to be told. We can’t ignore that they happen, and daters need to be educated against the risks. However, as an industry, we can also aim to change the trend of negative press, by dedicating ourselves to dater safety, and doing everything we can to ensure that daters are as safe as possible when using our sites and apps.
Make sure your site offers safety advice, with information about what not to share, and how to stay as safe as possible, both online and off. Use verification methods to check people are who they say they are, and defend your site from scammers by installing anti-scammer software, like Scamalytics. This software will not only prevent suspicious members from accessing your site, it also allows you to share scammer data from other dating sites, creating an industry-wide database of known scammer IP addresses, photos, emails and commonly-used phrases.
Moderate your site, monitor user behavior, and ensure daters can easily block and report other members. Make sure reports of user behavior are investigated and dealt with quickly. If you feel a member’s behavior needs to be escalated to the police then do so. Keep up to date with new forms of scams, crime trends and police advice.
If you’re not already a member or an associate of the Online Dating Association, I recommend getting involved. It gives us strength in numbers, direct links to the police and NCA, and the ability to share best practice and innovate together.
At the Dating Awards, dater safety has always been on our radar. As someone who came into this industry as a consumer and blogger, I knew from the start that if the awards were to be truly in the interest of customers, there needed to be an award dedicated to safety initiatives within the dating awards. The Safer Dating Award, sponsored by Scamalytics, is now a flagship award at our UK event, and the upcoming European and American Dating Awards.
As with our other awards categories, the Safer Dating award is designed to shine a light on all those doing good things in the dating industry, in the hope of creating some positive headlines about the industry.
By Charly Lester
Charly is the founder & CEO of The Dating Awards. The next Dating Awards will take place in Amsterdam on May 12th, in conjunction with the Global Dating Insights European Conference. Entries for all the different categories, including the Scamalytics Safer Dating Award, close on April 15th.
For more details go to eurodatingawards.com/nominate.