If you’re active on dating sites, follow these tips on Internet safety before setting up a first date
Lena Dunham may think that “Tinder is a tool for murder,” but let’s face it—not all of us can date rock stars, so Tinder will have to do for now. The GIRLS star was onto something when she made that comment, though. Online dating sites can pose a threat to your safety if you don’t take some careful precautions. Before you fill out your profile or make good on your resolution to set up more first dates, read the tips below to make sure you’re protecting yourself on the Internet so you can stay safe in real life. Even if you already have a profile edited to perfection, it’s never too late to start employing these tactics. Better safe than sorry, right? (And check out 4 Online Habits That Say He's Not Boyfriend Material.)
While dating apps like Hinge—which automatically connects your Facebook account to your dating profile (though users can disable the service at any time)—may save you uploading time, it’s best to use a photo that’s not posted on any of your social media accounts. Why, you ask? If you’ve ever done a reverse image search through Google, you’ll know that by simply uploading a photo into the search engine, you’ll be able to see where else on the web that photo appears. If you have one photo reserved strictly for online dating sites, no potential suitors will find your Facebook or Instagram accounts prematurely. On that note, make sure all your social media is kept on private while you’re online dating. If you need to stay public for professional reasons, consider creating private accounts with more personal information for just friends and family. (Where shouldn't you be taking your online dating selfies? See Stop Taking Selfies in These 7 Spots.)
When it comes to online dating, we’re complete advocates for doing a little light stalking pre-meetup. Do a quick Google search of your guy and check out his social media accounts. We’re not saying come prepared to recite from memory his favorite movies and TV shows—skim over that stuff, and instead check for red flags like legal trouble or offensive tweets. This is where your own reverse image search could come in handy as well. Just make sure you don’t friend or request anyone you haven’t met in real life yet. That way, your information will be kept private (While you can keep your personal social accounts private, chances are your potential online matches are scrutinizing your dating profiles See What Men Really Think About Your Online Dating Profile.)
This may seem like a no-brainer, but make sure to stay purposefully vague in your profile about where exactly you live and work. It’s totally OK to say you live in Chicago, for example, but naming your all your favorite neighborhood haunts in Lincoln Park is kind of a dead giveaway as to where you sleep at night. The same goes for your office location.
Once you’ve cleared your potential date from any glaring red flags, make sure you let someone close to you know where and what time you’re meeting, and who the guy is. One Shape editor copped to texting her roommate a picture of the guy she was meeting, along with the location and time of their date, which we thought was a smart move. If you don’t have a roommate, just shoot a quick e-mail or text to a close friend, or a even family member.
It’s important to not give out any of your real contact info until you’ve checked out and really feel comfortable with the guy you met online. A Google Voice number is easy to set up and 100 percent free. Just have all phone calls from online suitors forwarded to your Google Voice number, and they’ll never know the difference.
If you live in a big city, it might be easy to pick a favorite neighborhood spot and plan to walk to and from your date, but no matter how close you are to home, make sure to drive or take a cab. Whatever you do, arrange your own transportation—don’t let him see where you actually live until you feel completely comfortable with him (Online dating can be hit or miss, but it sure makes for some funny stories. See The Worst Online Dating Messages).