This article was updated in October 2020.
Dating crime is still on the up. UK police figures between 2015 and 2018 include 2,029 recorded offences – including sexual offences – involving an online dating website or app. In 2015, 329 offences were recorded, compared to 658 recorded offences in 2018.
Other articles describe how the information you provide on a dating site can be used to trace you back to your workplace or home address. This can be done by piecing together disparate comments you make in messages online as well as your dating profile and social media profiles. This could lead to identity fraud or being stalked.
Learn to spot the warning signs early on before deciding whether to arrange a date, and take precautions while on the date.
If you haven’t already read my blog post on dating scammers, that’s a good place to start to make sure (1) you’re protecting yourself against identity fraud, and (2) how to spot warning signs in profiles and messages of daters who have ulterior motives.
Be picky about who you date
Only arrange dates with people after talking enough to establish they have specifics in common with you, such as favourite films, books, etc that they can talk about. Make sure the conversation is a healthy one, with them showing an interest in the specifics of your profile and treating you with respect. Ideally I would chat on the phone or Skype too before the date, and if you feel at all uneasy, don’t arrange a date. Having a friend or a dating coach to check the messages objectively can help too.
Look for warning skills in your date’s conversational skills
When you are on the date, you could ask to see their Facebook page or photos of their family and friends to see if they seem to have healthy relationships rather than being a loner. If they can’t tell you what their job is, or what they’ve been doing the last few weekends or when they last saw their family, those could be warning signs. Lack of eye contact, empathy or poor conversation skills are also bad signs. Are they showing sufficient interest in you as an individual?
Beware of love bombing
However, many men (and some women) are very good at “love bombing” (another good article on it here). This is a strategy to influence another person by giving them a lot of intense attention and talking about emotions very early on. On a first date, this might involve romantic language, staring into your eyes, physical contact, talking as if you’re the most wonderful person they have ever met, how they’ve never felt like this before, they’ve never felt this strong a connection, and so on. Then being in constant contact by phone after the first date is a way of keeping you emotionally close. It can be used as a way to get women into bed very early on. A man may say “I don’t usually do this on a first date”. This may then involve sexual violence or abuse. Don’t be taken in by compliments. They may be manipulating you. Expect to be treated with respect – I don’t think asking someone to go to bed with you on a first date is respectful; and if they do suggest it and you turn it down they should accept that and not try to persuade you.
Don’t visit each other’s homes after a first date
Inviting someone back to your place or going to theirs after a first date involves a lot of risks. You don’t know them very well, and it’s easy for someone to put on a show of being romantic, attentive, kind and genuine for a short time. After a few dates, you will have a better idea of whether they lose their temper easily, are consistent and reliable, and know what kind of relationship skills and history they have. This will help reduce the risk of becoming a victim of a dating crime.
Your date may make excuses like “My phone is dead – can I charge it or phone for a taxi from your place?” Offer to phone for the taxi for them, but not at your place. Don’t be embarrassed about saying “I don’t know you well enough to invite you in – I’m sure you understand.” There’s no need to make up complicated excuses – keep it simple and tell the truth. If you’re a woman, you are entitled to be cautious.
Essentials for a first date
- Have a coffee date for the first date, in the day. Keep it short.
- Make sure you don’t leave your drink unattended. Take it with you if you go to the loo.
- Tell the bar or restaurant staff that you’re on a first date so they can keep a watch on you.
- Don’t drink too much. Your judgment will become flawed. Don’t drink before the date.
- Have a Date Protection Officer! This is a friend or family member who knows:
- where you are
- the name, photo and phone number of your date
- the time you are meeting.
Arrange to check in with them after say two hours, when you are leaving and when you get home. If they don’t hear from you, your Date Protection Officer should phone the bar, visit themselves or phone the police. Put an alarm on your phone to remind you to check in. It can be good to have TWO Date Protection Officers sometimes in case one of them has an early night or so they can liaise in the event of a problem. Tell your date that you have a Date Protection Officer and that you’re going to check in with them.
- Treat yourself with respect and you are more likely to be treated that way back. Don’t dress in a way that gives the wrong message. (Yes, women have the right to dress how they want. But many men do interpret the way women dress. So why take the risk of a misinterpretation when you don’t know the guy?) If you’re not comfortable with physical contact or kissing, say so politely with a smile and stick to it. No means no. Don’t allow yourself to be worn down by persuasion. Most people prefer to wait until a second date for physical contact. A kiss on the cheek and a quick hug are fine for a first date. You can still be warm and friendly towards them without getting too intimate.
- If you feel uncomfortable with their behaviour towards you on the date, bring the date to an end and get a cab. If necessary, tell the bar staff and ask for help. The Metropolitan police have an initiative in cities such as London called Ask for Angela. It’s a code for “get me out of here”. Staff can call a taxi for you; contact your friends or family; or request that an individual causing the distress leaves the venue. Ask at the bar before your date or arrange your own code with staff. Choose places for dates where you know there can be this arrangement already.
- Make sure they don’t follow you home. Travel safely. Get a cab if it’s late. Have a personal alarm.
- If you DO decide to visit their home or invite them back, inform your Date Protection Officer and arrange more check-ins. Use protection. Don’t take any drugs. Keep your purse and keys hidden.
Getting objective advice from a Dating Coach
Many of my clients pay in advance and use me for five minutes of email advice now and then for questions like “Do you think this guy is genuine?” or “Does this person seem to have too many psychological problems to be ready to date?” or “Should I invite her back to my place after the fourth date?” It can be very useful to have someone objective to check in with when you’re online dating, especially if you’re new to it and don’t know the unwritten “rules”, or if you’ve had a lot of bad dates. Contact me if you would like to arrange this.