Online Dating Safety 101
Online dating can be overwhelming and scary! Remember to have a good time while trusting your instincts.
If you feel uncomfortable, or something feels off, always remember, you can leave a date, place, or situation, or cut off communication with whoever is making you feel unsafe.
- Decide how you want to use photos on dating profiles.
- If you don’t feel safe using a full photo, opt for one that doesn’t reveal your entire face.
- Another option is linking your dating profile to your social media profile(s). Folks who are genuinely interested in knowing you will make the effort to visit them.
- Avoid connecting with suspicious profiles.
- If the person you matched with has no bio or linked social media account(s), you could possibly be interacting with a bot or fake account.
- Little or no details, or receiving vague responses are red flags.
- You should block and report fake profiles.
- Most dating apps have a free video calling option. Use it!
- Have a virtual date. Use it as an opportunity to connect with people for initial vetting.
- Exchange personal contact numbers and do a few more calls once you feel it is safe to do so.
- Check out your potential date on social media.
- If you know your match’s name or handles on social media— or better yet if you have mutual friends online — look them up and make sure you aren’t being catfished.
- Use Google’s reverse image search if you are suspicious about their profile photo.
- Wait to share any personal information.
- Never give your personal information such as your work or home address to someone you haven’t met in person.
- Never share your social insurance number (SIN), credit card details, passwords to your accounts, or banking information.
- Some red flags to look out for in conversations:
- They ask for financial assistance, or ask to “spoil you”
- They share links to surveys or websites and ask you to click on them and/or prove you’re not a sexual assaulter
- They disappear suddenly from the site, then reappear under a different name
- They request your home or work address under the guise of sending flowers or gifts
- Examples of user behaviour you may want to report:
- They request financial assistance
- They are a minor
- They send harassing or offensive messages
- They attempt to threaten or intimidate you in any way
- There is a fast “romantic” build-up to the conversation
If you did send money or share financial information, report it to the financial institution used e.g. your bank, Western Union, MoneyGram. You may also want to check and or freeze your credit rating via Equifax and TransUnion.
Gather all information about the situation, including the scammer’s profile name, how you made contact, social media screenshots, emails, etc. If you have been scammed or defrauded and feel comfortable, contact your local police service. The 519 can provide support contacting Toronto’s Police Service, reach out to us at AVI@The519.org.
Notify the dating website or social media site where you met the scammer. Scammers usually have more than one account.
Be proactive; tell family, friends, coworkers, and neighbours about your experience to warn them about romance scams.
Dating Safety 101
You’ve gotten over the nerves of online dating and have finally decided to meet with your date in person. Remember to have a good time while trusting your instincts, and if something feels off, you can leave.
When Meeting in Person
- Meet in a public place. For your first date, avoid meeting someone you don’t know well yet in your home, apartment, or workplace.
- Be clear about expectations, even when it is a casual hookup. Do not sign up to do things you are not comfortable with. Remember that consent is important and ongoing, and you can say “no” at any given moment.
- Tell a friend or close contact where you’re going.
- Take a screenshot of your date’s profile and send it to a friend. Send them your live location when you are out with your date.
- If you’re meeting your date at their place, send a friend the address and ask them to check on you from time to time.
- Establish what signs could mean you need help (e.g. the signal for help*).
- Don’t rely on your date for transportation. It’s important that you are in control of your own transportation. It is safer to take public transit or ask a friend for a ride if you are unable to take transit or a taxi
- Make sure your phone is charged (battery and data plan).
- Whatever you consume on a date – drinks, weed, etc., make sure you are feeling in control of yourself. If you don’t feel well or in control, go home.
- If you suspect your drink has been spiked, don’t consume the contents. Inform a staff member, and someone you trust. Don’t take a ride home with someone you don’t know or trust.
- If while drinking or after finishing your drink you feel “out of it” or drunker than expected, your drink might have been spiked.
- Alert a trusted person – such as a friend, venue staff or host what is happening.
- Go a safe place – have a trusted person with you.
- If the condition of someone whose drink was spiked gets worse (loses consciousness), call 911 and ask for an ambulance
- Contact the police ASAP after a suspected incident of drink spiking.
If you have experienced harassment, assault, or violence of any kind while on your in-person date, help is available. Get in touch with The 519’s Anti-Violence Initiatives (AVI) at AVI@The519.org.
Notify the dating website or social media site where you met the individual. Such people usually have more than one account.
Be proactive; tell family, friends, coworkers, and neighbours about your experience to warn them about such potential situations.
Asking for Help:
The Signal for Help (or the Violence at Home Signal for Help) is a single-handed gesture. It was launched by the Canadian Women’s Foundation.
It can be used by an individual to alert others that they feel threatened and need help over a video call, or in-person.
The signal has been recognized by over 40 organizations across Canada and the US as a tool to help combat domestic violence.
If you see the Signal:
- Check in with the person safely to find out what they need and want you to do.
- They may want to tell you what is happening. They may ask you to listen and be there for them. They may ask for help finding services.
If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, call 911 or your local emergency services (police, fire, ambulance).
Catfishing/catfished: the process of luring someone into a relationship by means of a fictional online persona.
Drink spiking: it means adding alcohol or drugs into someone’s drink without their knowledge or consent. Flavourless, colourless and odourless, date rape drugs are undetectable and can easily be mixed into drinks. Low doses of the drugs can cause muscle relaxation, drowsiness, disorientation, comas and loss of feeling. In higher doses, the drugs can lead to convulsions, hallucinations and death.
Read more: Drink spiking and how to help.
The 519 – Safe Dating 101 by The519
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