It might be a new year, but you know what never goes out of style? Staying safe online, especially when it comes to dating. I know the topic of online safety isn’t the flashiest or most click-worthy (though it should be), but during a period of all our lives when we’re spending more time online and less time IRL, it’s more important than ever to be fluent in the do’s and don’ts of safe online behavior.
Of course, this hits close to home for us here at Plenty of Fish, because the safety of our members is always our tip-top priority. While staying safe when dating in person is super important (and definitely not to be ignored), we wanted to offer our best safety tips for online dating à la Covid-19 – AKA, mostly virtual.
Keep Your Private and Personal Info, Well, Private
If someone stopped you on the street to ask for your home address, your email password, or your credit card information, you’d probably run the other way pretty quickly. Talking to someone online is no different! Repeat after me: friends don’t let other friends give their personal information to people on the internet.
While you’re getting to know someone online, caution is your bestie, even right down to info on your daily routine. Yes, open up about your life, your hobbies, and things that are important to you, but keep the when’s and where’s of this stuff private early on.
Verifying Someone’s Identity is Cool, Not Creepy
I’m definitely not saying to open your messages with a video call request …. because that’s creepy, but taking the steps to verify someone is who they say they are is perfectly normal, and encouraged! Once you’ve been chatting with someone, it’s okay to ask for their social media so you can make sure their pictures are the same. When you feel a-okay on that front, it’s a good idea to eventually do a video call as well to be extra sure there’s no funny business happening.
If you feel creepy, don’t. Your safety is what’s most important, and if someone is really into you they’ll want to make you feel as comfortable as possible moving forward!
LDR’s Might Be In, But Scams Are Not
With virtual connection on the rise, you may find yourself in a long-distance relationship, and that’s great! Watch out though, don’t let yourself get swept up in something that might not be for real. If someone is avoiding answering personal questions, getting on a video call, or is asking you for money for any variety of reasons, sound the alarm!
Taking things slow is the right move, and if someone is legit, they’ll have no problem proving it as much as you’d like them to, and they certainly won’t be asking you for any cash (if they are, report them to us!).
If You Are Meeting Up, Follow the Four T’s
Depending on the pandemic protocol in your area, you might still be meeting up for in-person dates, whether that means a socially distanced walk or picnic, or heading to a bar or restaurant. Beyond following your local Covid-19 guidelines, follow the four T’s to make sure you’re staying safe when meeting up in person.
Always, always, always tell a friend, a family member, or all of the above where and when your date is taking place and how long you think you’re going to be there. Pro tip: the Noonlight app lets you easily share these details with loved ones. Sharing your location for the duration of your date via something like Find My Friends is also a good option.
Take your own transportation
As much as it’s a typical “chivalric” move to be picked up for a date, we’re all strong, independent humans who don’t need no ride… at least not from a semi-stranger. Despite how much you may have gotten to know someone online, it’s best to play it safe and make your own way to the date. This way, you’re not relying on them for a way home either. You may need to make a quick getaway for any multitude of reasons… the date might just be a bust!
Take it somewhere public
When meeting up with someone for the first time, always make it in a public place and keep it there. At this stage in a new relationship formed online, you’re still screening for chemistry… and potential red flags. If your date tries to insist on something more intimate, take it as a big SOS and end the meet-up.
Think up an exit strategy
I know thinking up a worst-case scenario isn’t the most positive way to prep for a date, but it’s a vital step that’s going to help keep you safe and give you peace of mind. Meeting at a bar? Get there early and make a plan with the bartender for what to do if you start to feel uncomfortable (ie – write a note or use a hand signal). Meeting at the park? Have a friend ready to pick you up just in case, or a taxi on speed-dial. The Noonlight app also has a built-in panic button to hit in case of emergencies.
If Something Seems Off, It Probably Is
This is the #1 general rule to follow – trust that gut! If something feels wrong, weird, or too good to be true, it’s pretty likely it is… proceed with caution!
- If someone tries to immediately move you to a different app to chat, be wary and stay on Plenty of Fish to talk (we have safe message filters to help with this).
- If someone sends you a weird link with no context – don’t click it (in fact, avoid clicking any external links).
- If someone is claiming to work for Plenty of Fish, yet is asking for a bunch of personal information – don’t give it to them (we’ll never ask for your password, remote-access, or for money to provide you with customer support).
- If someone claims to be from your area but stuck overseas – don’t believe them, and never offer to wire someone money.
If you come across any strange or suspicious behavior, you can always message our support team at [email protected] for advice. We also always encourage you to block anyone who’s given you the creeps or report anyone who isn’t following our Community Guidelines.
Moral of the story: dating should be fun, not stressful or scary. Taking these small steps to always keep your safety top of mind will help you feel confident and ready to take on the world of online dating worry-free!
For a full breakdown on dating safely, as well as a list of resources if you have or are experiencing an unsafe situation, visit pof.com/safety.