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  • Steve Carter

Online Dating: Tips to Help Keep You Safe - Part 1

In a 2013 study, researchers reported that nearly 35% of recent marriages in the U.S. started online. Of that number, 45% of survey respondents met their future spouse through a dating service.

The Dark Side of Online Dating

As nice as it might be to dream that your true love is just a click away, unfortunately, there is a dark side to online dating. In it’s “2015 Internet Crime Report”1, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) reported there were more than 12,500 cases of online romance related fraud with total losses of more than $200 million. As an example, one of my clients, a university professor, looked for love online and ended up losing more than $100,000 to a confidence man who stole her heart and then her money.

Sadly, too often more than money is lost. Crimes such as stalking, rape, and even murder can be facilitated through online dating sites and social media.

The “Emerging New Threat in Online Dating” report issued by the United Kingdom’s National Crime Agency (NCA) found that reported online related rape cases surged more than 450% between 2009 and 2014. The overall increase for all rapes and sexual offenses over that same period in England was 31% and 19% in Wales.

Looking at the Numbers to Help Us Identify Stay Safe Practices

The NCA looked at characteristics of online rape related cases and discovered:

  • 85% of victims were women and 15% were men.

  • Communications of a sexual nature prior to the first meeting in person were reported in more than half of cases where this data had been recorded.

  • In 43% of cases where the information was available, the first face-to-face meeting between the victim and the offender took place within one week of their initial contact online

  • Just over 40% of victims spent time in private on their first date. Ultimately, 72% of offenses were committed at the residence of the offender or victim.

  • 71% of rapes occurred during the first face-to-face meeting following online contact.

  • 49% of people suspected of committing a sexual offense facilitated through an online dating site had a previous conviction compared to research showing that 84% of stranger rapists would be expected to have a previous conviction.

  • Keep your home address private. There is no need for anyone you are meeting for the first time to know where you live.

Some Basic Safety Practices Based on Research

These findings point toward some basic safety practices when going on that first date with someone you meet online:

  • Don’t engage in sexually suggestive communication. You want potential partners to be drawn to you for who you are, not what they expect to get on a first date.

  • Always meet and stay in public places such as a coffee shop or restaurant.

  • If you choose to drink, consume only one drink and make sure you keep your drink with you at all times to help ensure a date rape drug isn’t added to your beverage.

  • Never spend time in private on a first date and, preferably, on the first three dates.

  • When leaving the meeting place, ensure you are not followed home.

  • Get to know the person well before allowing yourself to be alone with them.

Other best practices for going on a first date with someone you meet online include:

  • Let at least one trusted family member or friend know where you’re going and who you are going to meet. Report in at least once by cell phone call or text during the date.

  • If your date has a Facebook or other social media profile, share that link with your trusted family member or friend

  • Let the individual you are meeting know you have shared his or her information with trusted family members and friends.

  • Trust your instincts. If you don’t feel safe with a person, cut the date short and leave.

Coming Attractions

In part two of our Stay Safe Online series, you’ll learn what information to never share on dating and social media sites. You’ll also learn how to conduct a quick background check on potential dates to help you weed out phonies.

We invite you to share your thoughts about safe online dating or any other topic in the “Comments” section below. You can also email me directly at

Until our next post, please Stay Safe!

Steve Carter

Stephen Carter is a former chief of police, defensive tactics instructor, corporate security director, and international speaker who has taught thousands of people how to safeguard their homes, travel safely, and protect themselves online. In addition, he is the CEO of Stress Solutions, LLC, a company dedicated to helping everyone achieve optimum health and emotional well-being.

P.S. For additional guidance on staying safe online, I recommend visiting these sites and incorporating the tips that apply to your situation:

P.S. For additional guidance on staying safe online, I recommend visiting these sites and incorporating the tips that apply to your situation:

  • Get Safe Online:

  • “Tips for Safe and Healthy Online Dating”; “U.S. News and World Report”;

  • “Tips for Finding a Safe Date or Mate Online” | Huffington Post.

  • “Self Care in an Online Era”,

References cited in this post:

1. “2015 Internet Crime Report”, U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigations.

2. “Emerging New Threat in Online Dating”, National Crime Agency, United Kingdom.

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