Online dating can be a dangerous affair. Here's how to stay safe

05 August 2019 - 00:00 By Zola Zingithwa
To avoid being catfished, check to see if the person you are chatting to exists on other online platforms under the name they gave you. Also, do their profile photos on various social media sites match up?
To avoid being catfished, check to see if the person you are chatting to exists on other online platforms under the name they gave you. Also, do their profile photos on various social media sites match up?
Image: 123RF/Ion Chiosea

Shocking stories making local headlines have flared up serious concerns around the safety of internet dating.

A Cape Town man was recently nabbed after allegedly defrauding unsuspecting women of more than R4m through an online dating scam, while an Mpumalanga man is facing charges for allegedly murdering five women he met via Facebook.

So while finding love on the internet can be as easy as swiping right, it's important to remember that although the person you meet the could be "the one", they could also be a potentially dangerous liar.

It sucks to be cynical, but apparently 57% of online daters admit to lying about everything from their appearance to their marital status.

That's according to international survey by anti-virus firm Kaspersky Lab, which also found that 55% of people have experienced some sort of threat or problem while dating online, whether it be an IT security issue or being catfished.

That's not to say you should abandon your online pursuit to find a partner, just be cautious and keep these safety tips from 1st for Women Insurance in mind:

TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS

When you first chat with a potential love interest online, be aware of any red flags that might crop up. For instance, if they give you inconsistent information about themselves or, a big one, if they ask you for money. Trust your instincts and don't be afraid to end things if someone makes you feel uncomfortable.

DON'T OVERSHARE

Don't give away too many personal details until you are sure you can trust the person you've met - this applies to first dates IRL (in real life) too. Keep your location vague and don't make your home address easy to find online.

This brings us to sexting. Sextortion is real, so don't send any sensitive texts, snaps or videos that could be used to blackmail you to a person you don't know incredibly well.

DO YOUR HOMEWORK

To avoid being catfished, check to see if the person you are chatting to exists on other online platforms under the name they gave you. Also, do their profile photos on various social media sites match up?

It's also best to speak to your date on the phone before you agree to meet IRL; it's easier to pick up if someone is being shifty from their tone than from a text message. Better yet, try and set up a video call.

PLAN YOUR IRL DATE WITH CARE

Once you're happy to meet in person, pick a busy, public venue for your date, and organise to make your own way there.

Politely decline any kind offers to pick you up at home. You don't want someone you don't really know to find out where you live, and getting in a car with them puts them in complete control of where they take you.

Fill a friend of family member in on your plans, and tell them you'll let them know when you're home. This means someone will be aware if things awry.

ON YOUR DATE 

Don't drink too much. We know, it's tempting to have a cocktail or two to help keep those first date nerves at bay, but it's better to be nervous and alert for your own safety. Also keep a close eye on your beverage at all times, because unfortunately spiking drinks in a thing.

Lastly, if you feel something isn't right, don't worry about hurting someone's feelings or being polite, end the date asap.


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