This is a sponsored post on behalf of Spokeo. All opinions are my own.
If you have been following along with me the past few years, you have probably seen a lot of talk about my adventures in online dating. Or shall I say, “misadventures?” Dating in your 40s is not easy, and when you bring the element of online dating into the equation, it can not only be frustrating, but also frankly a little dangerous. You never know who you are matching with, and ultimately, meeting up with. While I may have not been successful YET in finding a relationship, I have become somewhat of a pro at this whole online dating thing, so I am sharing these 5 Tips for Safe Online Dating today in hopes that my experience can help all of my single readers out there.
5 Tips for Safe Online Dating
Use An Alternate Phone Number
When I meet someone online, I do not usually give them my real phone number. I’ve spoken about using an alternate phone number (most commonly known as a “burner number”) until you’ve met someone and determined that they were in fact who they say they are. Now, many people don’t realize this, but you can usually search for someone online using their phone number – even if you can’t find their name as being listed – by using a reverse phone lookup. Many social media networks will recommend new friends based on whom you text, or you can even search for people on different apps by searching their phone number. For me, it is imperative that I protect my identity until I get to know someone because I live alone and have a very public image. I am literally ALL OVER THE INTERNET, and it would be extremely easy to find me if they tried hard enough. A non-fixed VoiP is not connected to your real name and wouldn’t be associated with any of your social media accounts.
Do Not Reveal Any Personally Identifying Information to Strangers
We are all on social media at this point in time, and it can be very easy to find someone you meet online. As I am a blogger, ALL of my info is out there and it’s incredibly easy to find me…if I share too much information. I never use my real phone number, give my full name, or share my business information until I meet someone. Now, I personally feel that I am a good judge of character, and I can usually tell if someone is safe when I meet them in person. I will usually explain to them on our first date that I was protecting myself and in the four years that I’ve been single, no one has cared. Most dates have actually been impressed by the measures I go to in order to remain safe. People always ask “what do you do for a living?” when meeting online. It’s a normal question! I do say that I am a blogger, but explain that I don’t feel comfortable sharing the name of my site just yet. I’ve seen guys on dating apps list the name of their company…do you know how easy it is to stalk someone with just their first name and place of employment? It’s as simple as calling the company and asking for their last name.
Personal Story: I once looked up the phone number of a man I met on Tinder, and it was connected to his Facebook profile…which showed that he was married! This happens very often in online dating sites, as they are so anonymous! Not only did I see that he was married, I saw his complete name, place of employment – as well as his wife’s when clicking through to her profile.
Always Make Your First Date in a Public Place
I think that this should go without saying: never meet a first date in an unfamiliar place. I have several first date spots – places where I know the staff and they know me. Should a first date go wrong, I know that they would have my back. They would also know to contact a friend of mine if they saw something happening. I was actually “roofied” once, in NYC, and the regulars at the bar saw that something was wrong with me and literally took me to my friend and explained what happened. Even if you do not have a relationship with the staff at any local bars or restaurants, make sure that it is a public place, well-lit parking lots, etc.
Pro Tip: This isn’t so much a matter of safety, but still a rule I follow. I always have cash on me. I prefer to have $100, just in case, but at least $50 before going on a first date. If things aren’t going well, if you’re seeing red flags – you can simply throw that cash down for the server and get out immediately. No need to wait for the check, giving your date time to make a scene or also pay for their portion of the bill and follow you out. I have never had to use that cash to escape a dangerous situation, but I have thrown down my cash when someone was rude or disrespectful and told them goodbye.
Do Your Research on The Person Before Meeting
Now, there are a million reasons to look someone up before meeting them, and a ton of different sites you can use to do so. I personally prefer Spokeo, which allows you to search by name, phone number, address or even email address.
Spokeo combines 12 billion records from thousands of data sources to give you search results including social media profiles, dating profiles, home addresses, phone numbers, alias, family background, relationship backgrounds, etc. Spokeo offers single reports or monthly memberships, and sometimes offer discounts as well!
I recently dated a man that I met at a local establishment, and for some reason, I failed to do my due diligence before agreeing to go out with him. It wasn’t until AFTER the last one had legal issues that I decided to do a background check. I wish I had the foresight to look him up before getting involved with him, because he had a wrap sheet dating back at least ten years, with everything from speeding tickets to DUI to bench warrants for his arrest just a year prior to my meeting him! Thankfully, they were all nonviolent offenses and no felonies, but for me personally, law trouble is a deal breaker.
If I had looked him up on Spokeo, I could have avoided a lot of heartbreak and drama this year, as his record is a big red flag that he was not a good match for me.
5 Tips for Safe Online Dating
Share Your Plans and Location with Friends
I have several safety measures in place to ensure that I make it out of my first dates alive! I could be overly paranoid, but when I got divorced in 2015, I was so afraid of something happening to me, or someone following me home to where my daughter and I lived alone that I took every precaution possible.
- Tell your friends where you are going, and send them photos of the person and their dating profile as well as their phone number.
- Turn on location sharing if you are on iOS so that they can see exactly where you are – and if you go missing, this can help find you. Several of my single friends and I have this feature active. I also have it with friends out of town and my daughter. It makes me feel much safer, because my closest girlfriends always know where I am going, and if they text me and I don’t respond after a while, they can check my location.
- Send bathroom updates! I always take a short break to use the ladies room and let my friends know how it’s going.
- If the date is up for it, snap a selfie and send to your friends! Not only is this fun and silly, but it’s proof that they were with you, time stamped, in case something should happen.
- If you drink alcohol, create a 2 drink maximum when first seeing someone.
- NEVER leave your drink unattended. If you need to use the ladies room, do not finish that drink when you return. Order a new one. Accidentally spill it. Say you want something else, whatever.
I hope that these 5 Tips for Safe Online Dating helped you. I have been in the world of dating apps for four years now…and man is it rough! Just be safe, have fun and enjoy your life! If you have any tips or ideas that you’d like to share, please leave me a comment below. Don’t forget to check out Spokeo!