You signed up for an online dating site not sure what to expect, but you strike up a conversation with somebody who seems perfect for you. They’re good-looking and funny, and they have a great job and share many of your interests. Is it too good to be true? Maybe not, but if you’ve ever seen Catfish or spent enough time online, you know there are plenty of people who aren’t who they say they are. Online dating sites can run rampant with liars.
Research from the University of Wisconsin have shown 80 percent of online profiles contain lies, and while most of them are innocuous things like weight or income, but some can be much more serious. If you have any reservations about meeting your online crush face to face, consider your own safety first and look for these red flags.
1. They’re Too Forward
If you meet someone online who is honest and genuine, chances are they will be just as aware as you are that risks abound. They’ll want you to feel safe and won’t mind meeting in a public place – in fact, they may insist on it themselves. But someone with less-than-honest intentions may be more aggressive. The first clue is when you talk to them on the phone. No matter how sweet and romantic they seem online, if your first phone call quickly turns inappropriate or sexual, it’s a definite red flag. And if they talk about meeting at either their place or yours, there is definitely something wrong. Anyone savvy enough to have a dating profile online should be aware that you always meet someone for the first time in a public space. You wouldn’t invite a stranger you meet on the street into your home, and you shouldn’t invite an online stranger either.
2. There is No Information on Them
These days, a Google search can usually turn up some trace of a person, even if it’s minimal. If you plug their name and the details you know into a search engine, background check site, or other online method of finding people, and there’s no evidence of them existing, your suspicions should be raised. There’s a chance that it’s a fluke, but there’s a bigger chance that they could be lying about some aspect of themselves. Try to find their Facebook profile before you meet them. See who their friends are, and if everything looks legitimate. Ideally, you could even friend them. Sure, plenty of people don’t use social media, but around 7 billion people do, so it might give you more cause to hesitate if they don’t exist there, either.
3. If You’re Going to Meet
If you’re considering going ahead with a face to face meeting, make sure you take precautions. You should never drink alcohol before or during the meeting, because you want to be in complete control and able to articulate your own comfort level. Choose a public spot you don’t usually go to, so that you’re not identifying a place they can go to find you.
Don’t let them talk you into going anywhere else or doing anything you don’t feel comfortable with. If you can, bring along a friend. If not, at least tell someone what time you’re going and when to expect you back, just for your own safety. If someone you meet online is genuine, they won’t mind however many safety precautions you want to take, so don’t feel self-conscious about covering your bases.
It’s entirely possible for wonderful, lasting relationships to begin online. In fact, a large percentage of marriages these days really do begin as online connections. But there are also the less positive statistics. To increase your chances of being an online dating success story and not a cautionary tale, know what you’re getting into. Your search for love should never come at the price of putting yourself in danger.
Christopher Shanks uses free people search .org to gather information for his articles. Another site he recommends is freebackgroundcheck.org.