"Unfortunately, people have to be a little bit more guarded and cautious in general when looking to dive into the online dating world," Lysn psychologist Nancy Sokarno tells marie claire. Below, she shares the dangers that come with online dating, and how to properly protect yourself.
Things To Consider Before Online Dating
Personal Protection: "Online dating can sometimes create a virtual world where it might seem as though you know someone well, when in actual fact you may only be getting to know a curated version of a person," says Sokarno. "Don’t ever rush to meet a person in real life, until you are sure you know who they are."
Catfishing; Catfishing refers to a type of online fraud where a cybercriminal creates a false identity for the purpose of stealing from or exploiting the victim. "The persona you have met online could be a complete fabrication, be wary with details," says Sokarno. "If something feels wrong about it, flag your concerns."
Privacy: When it comes to information you choose to share via dating apps, consider whether you are sharing your details too quickly. "Think twice before sharing your full name, address details, images of yourself and never ever give out financial or banking details," Sokarno says, adding, "When it comes to images, also don’t share naked photos of yourself as these can be compromised or used against you in scams, blackmail or revenge porn."
Theft: Remember that any information you share can be used against you. "All of this information can be used with the intent of defrauding someone, seeking revenge or committing identity theft."
How To Properly Protect Yourself
Do your research: "Just like an online person could research you, try to do your own research on them," says Sokarno. "Get to know a person as much as you can before sharing vital information or agreeing to meet. Ask about where they work, what school they went to, who their friends are. If you have mutual friends, ask the other friend about that person and do your due diligence. Then, don’t just trust that they are that person."
Trust your instincts: "If something doesn’t seem right, it usually isn’t. Don’t just dismiss gaps or holes in someone’s story simply because you don’t want to believe they might not be who they say they are."
Don’t trust too easily: Always remember that when it comes to communicating online, information is often curated to what you want to believe. "With online dating, it can be very easy to lie, omit information or not tell the whole truth. Lying is one of the most hated aspects of online dating, but unfortunately over half of online daters still lie to each other, faking a range of attributes such as their names, marital status, location and appearance."
Ask advice: "If you’re not too sure about a person, voice your concerns to a friend or loved one and ask their advice. Those close to you will be able to tell you truthfully what they think, and you can take their concerns or considerations into account."
Meet in a public place: Never, ever, meet an online dating suitor in a private place when it’s the first time meeting. "Ensure that you meet in public places like a busy café or restaurant," Sokarno suggests. "Also don’t agree to go home with them on the first date. You may feel comfortable with that person quickly but it is better to take things a little slower than you might normally to ensure that person is right for you. "
Language And Behaviour To Look Out For
"Be wary of suitors seemingly moving too quickly by saying they are in love with you after only a few interactions," says Sokarno. "If it is a scam, they are usually trying to build up your trust and make you put on those rose-coloured glasses so you put your guard down. Dating and romance scammers will often express strong emotions for you in a relatively short period of time and ask that you move the conversation away from the website. That way if they are reported by someone else and removed from the service, it is harder for you to find out."
She adds, "Also be wary of someone mining you for information, for example, wanting to know all your details upfront. If it seems as though someone wants your full name, middle name, high school, siblings names, first pet names, mother’s maiden names, be very careful—this kind of information is what people use on passwords or for password security questions and can make it easy for someone to scam you. Also, be mindful of someone being pushy when it comes to you providing details or photos of yourself. If you say no and they continue to push you for that information, just be on your guard."
Nancy Sokarno is a psychologist at Lysn, a digital mental health company with wellbeing technology which helps people find their best-fit professional psychologist whilst being able to access online tools to improve their mental health.