Staying safe when using dating apps is imperative. Apps like Tinder have implemented their own safety features, but if you’re going to chat with and potentially meet strangers, it’s important to know the ins and outs of keeping yourself safe in the digital world and IRL. Some of these tips come from RAINN(Opens in a new tab), the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network.
Safety tips when signing up for dating apps
First off, don’t sign up with a dating app using a social media account like Facebook or Instagram. Previously, Bumble only had the option to sign up through Facebook. Thankfully, that’s no more, and you can sign up for Bumble with your phone number(Opens in a new tab). In fact, for other popular apps as well like Tinder(Opens in a new tab), Hinge(Opens in a new tab), and OkCupid(Opens in a new tab), you can sign up with a phone number or email.
That’s good news, because if you sign up with social media, it allows data from either platform to be exchanged with each other. This is why if you signed up with your Instagram account, for instance, matches may show up as recommended people to follow. While it’s tempting to sign up through a social platform and let it populate your profile for you, it allows this exchange of data.
“By connecting Instagram to your profile, you’re giving Meta all the data points necessary to connect these people together on Instagram,” said Tim Maliyil, founder of encryption and mobile security service AlertBoot(Opens in a new tab). He himself has seen women from dating sites pop up on Instagram.
Another component is photos; when you sign up through a social account, the dating app will likely use pictures from said account. This can make it easy for potential matches to find you elsewhere online. Therefore, in addition to signing up with an email or phone number, use different photos than are on your social media.
If you’re still concerned about people finding your social media profiles, lock them or adjust privacy settings(Opens in a new tab).
Safety tips when swiping and searching for matches
Be diligent when looking at fellow singles’ profiles. If they’re verified (a feature which Tinder, Bumble(Opens in a new tab), Hinge(Opens in a new tab), and OkCupid(Opens in a new tab) have), then you know this person looks like their pictures. But if they don’t have a photo, or only have one, and they’re not verified, that might be a red flag.
If they appear too-good-to-be-true — aka their photos look like magazine ads — you can screenshot someone’s profile and reverse image search to see if someone is potentially catfishing, or lying about who they are online. If you think something fishy is going on, report the user to the app (which will probably give you the option to block, as well).
If their Facebook or Instagram account is connected, you can take advantage and look them up. Do they have a new, sparce Facebook account with two friends, as opposed to a decade-old account with schools listed and hundreds of connections? You’ll probably want to swipe left on the former.
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Safety tips when talking to people online
A big red flag is if a match wants to immediately hop off the app and talk elsewhere — or, worse, if they immediately want to meet up. Stick to chatting on the app at first. For one, scammers can use your phone number(Opens in a new tab) to impersonate you. For another, if a match goes south, it’ll be a relief that they don’t have your number. There’s no rush!
Besides wanting to meet up immediately, another red flag is if they never want to meet nor video chat. This could be the work of a romance scammer, who pretends to be someone else on dating apps in order to get people to send them money.
For this reason, never share personal information (i.e. your bank account details) and don’t send money to a match. If someone is on the app for the reason you are — to date! — they won’t ask for either.
If you’re chatting with someone and feel uncomfortable (say if they’re too forward) feel free to unmatch and/or report them.
Safety tips when going on a date with an online match
As Mashable culture reporter Meera Navlakha advised, video chat before going on a date. Some apps, like Tinder, even have functions to do this in-app so you don’t have to exchange phone numbers. By video chatting beforehand, you can assure your date is who they say they are — and you may even find out if the chemistry isn’t there, which would save you both time on an IRL date!
How to safely meet up on a Tinder date
If the video date goes off without a hitch, it’s time to meet in person. Meet in a public place, and tell your support system (family, friends) where you are; you can even turn on your location for them so they can know exactly where you are.
Don’t rely on the date for transportation, so you can leave on your own accord if you’re feeling uncomfortable. You’re free to enlist the help of a bartender or server if something is wrong, too.
Trust your gut. If you’re getting a funny feeling from this date, you can leave. As RAINN asserts, don’t worry about coming off as “rude”; your safety comes first!
Remember that you can always pause your dating apps if you’re not enjoying them, or delete the profiles altogether. Staying safe trumps racking up matches any day.