Listen to this page! Narrated by Nicole A.
Written by Nicole K.
Updated April 7, 2022
Episode Background: A man is finally meeting the woman he’s been talking to from an online dating site in person. When he arrives at her house, he suddenly realizes that he’s been lured into a very dangerous situation, under false pretenses. What makes matters worse, this man uses a wheelchair, making him incredibly vulnerable to being the victim of a crime.
Dangers of Online Dating – Online dating can be a positive and rewarding experience, and it has been for countless people who have found love, but there are also serious risks. Online dating sites and apps have become a way for many people to take advantage of others. Emotions are inevitably involved in online dating situations, and when someone is experiencing strong feelings, they don’t always think clearly and may not see the dangers. Dating apps, by their very nature, create an emotional vulnerability in their users from the start.
The most common crimes committed via dating apps are:
- Rape and Sexual Assault: Women are more far more likely than men to be the victims of these crimes.
- Child sexual abuse: children are often completely defenseless against predators. They don’t have the ability to understand or be wary of warning signs, depending on their age, and it’s often too late when they do.
- Murder: attempted murder is one of the top three most prevalent crimes committed through online dating apps.
- Robbery: most people will meet up in a public place, but there are some who are naive and may go to the person’s home when meeting for the first time. If they have any vulnerabilities, such as physical or cognitive disabilities, this makes them even more susceptible to assault and robbery.
- Scams: scams in dating apps, named “Romance Scams,” are where someone builds up a relationship over time, gaining a victim’s trust, pretending to be someone else who cares about them, and then they ask for money at some point – which is never paid back. It is often emotionally and financially devastating.
If someone isn’t looking to harm you directly or in person, they could be just gathering data to use at another time. It may seem benign but just being able to access your friends’ list on a social media platform, may be something that is valuable to someone else. Posting a lot of pictures (or media) of your home, vehicles or neighbourhood may be all that’s needed to find your home in real life. The perfect opportunity (maybe a vacation) might give criminals an open door to ransacking your home or worse.
Use A Trusted Site
There are thousands of dating sites to choose from, so do your research! Compare them to one another. Ask family and friends what sites they use and look for success stories. Does this site collaborate with other reputable businesses? If it’s a dating app you’re thinking of joining, check out its reviews in The App Store and Google Play. Look for four to five stars.
Verify Your Date’s Identity
Use a people search or a background check website to verify a person’s identity and/or look up their social media profile(s) on FaceBook, Twitter, etc. to see if everything is congruent. Keep in mind that a skilled scammer may have very legitimate socials to back up their fake online persona, so remain vigilant and be critical of what you see online.
Do Not Share Personal Info
Keep your identifiable information private. Never give out phone numbers, addresses, bank account numbers, credit card information, Social Insurance Number/Social Security Number, or anything that could identify you. Make sure photos you post have nothing in the background that could identify you.
Dismiss Requests for Money
This is a major red flag – run for the (metaphorical) hills and then report the person who is asking for money. Their story does not matter, so don’t get lost in it. Are they asking for money, yes or no? It’s that simple.
Stay on Site
If someone is pressuring you to leave the dating platform to talk by email or text, for example, do not engage. If they take you away from the dating site, they are far less likely to get caught.
Block and Report Suspicious Members
If someone makes you feel uncomfortable in any way, do not communicate with them further. Block them so they can’t talk their way into victimizing you and report to website admins, so that others can be safe as well.
Do Not Rely on the Dating Site for Protection
Be proactive. Assume that the dating platform you’re using has no safeguards in place.
Swindlers steal images from all over the Internet in order to hide their true identities. The BBB recommends tineye.com or images.google.com to do an image search. If the photo is related to other people and shows up on strange websites, take precautions.
This can break the ice and help you feel more comfortable while staying safe. It can also help you gather evidence and make a more informed decision (should it be needed) Trust your intuition.
When meeting in person for the first time, ensure you are in a public space (at the mall, at a coffee shop, etc.).
Charged with Independence
Fully charged cell phone? Check. Are you in charge of your own transportation? Check. If an emergency arises, a working phone is potentially life-saving. Transport yourself sans strangers – drive yourself, take public transit, use a cab – just ensure that you, and only you, are the boss of deciding where you are. No one holds power over when or how you can leave.