Are you willing to give online dating a try? You definitely should. Studies show that almost 40% of heterosexual couples meet online. Many marriages, long-term relationships, and even parenthood stories begin with online interaction. You swipe right and meet the love of your life. Right? If only it was so simple. Online dating uses algorithms to predict a good match between two people. And that helps. But what algorithms can’t detect is when someone lies. If you are familiar with online dating jargon, you already know that one of the most important dangers is catfishing (to lure someone into a relationship using lies and deceitful methods). If you want to approach online dating from a smart, informed perspective, there are several ways to avoid getting catfished online:
- Research. While some people cringe at the idea of performing a background check on a potential romantic partner, it is the best way to be sure that you are dealing with a real person. It can also help you avoid dating someone who’s married, or a known sexual offender or criminal. Today, background searches are painless, straightforward, and cheap. Take, for example, checkpeople. For a low monthly fee, you can perform unlimited searches (which comes in handy if you are just dipping your toes in the world of online romance).
- If it seems to good to be true, it probably is. Love-struck individuals who profess their unlimited faith and commitment without having met in person are usually trying to lure you into something else such as giving them money, or easy sex. They are impatient, and usually not very respectful of your boundaries. If this is what you are dealing with, run.
- Video Call. Never agree to meet someone if they refuse to have a video call. Continuing with a romantic conversation with someone who refuses to video call is also a waste of time. Someone that has nothing to hide will probably be excited about it, so beware of those who stall it.
- Never agree to any kind of money exchange, even after your first date, or during the first stages of a relationship. Trust should be built with time, and someone asking you for a financial reward (name it a gift, a loan, or whatever name they choose) is probably catfishing you.
- Verify their profile, and use a Google Image Search to determine if their picture is real or stolen. A stolen picture should be a reason to end all conversations.
- Never share intimate pictures or any sensitive information through dating sites. And refuse to continue the conversation with anyone who asks.
While catfishing is fairly common, there are many ways to stay safe. Usually, common sense is the best way to avoid being catfished, or, in other words, trusting your gut. If you feel uncomfortable by any request, say so. Someone who wants to establish a healthy relationship will never ask you to do something that you don’t want to do. Once you decide to move forward, keep in mind the following safety considerations:
- At any sign of violence, flee. This means yelling, jealousy, or controlling behaviors.
- Move slowly. Try to know the person before making important commitments and establish boundaries clearly.
- Talk about expectations. You don’t want to find that you have opposite ideas of a future together after a year of dating.
- Keep the first dates in public spaces in which you feel comfortable and safe.
- Talk to your friends, sometimes another set of eyes can spot danger better.
Dating should be enjoyable and fun. If your partner makes you feel depressed or anxious, you are on the wrong path.