I have been internet dating on and off for 20 years and throughout that time, one thing has remained consistently important: the need to be vigilant regarding safety. Unfortunately, there are many people who sign up to dating apps for entirely different reasons than finding love. From people looking for one-night stands (ONS) or no strings attached (NSA) sex, or even deliberate scammers, there are lots of potential red flags to be aware of, especially if you are new to the internet dating landscape. So let’s take a look at a few standard ways to stay safe if you are meeting people online in midlife, regardless of the type of connection you’re seeking.
Choosing the right internet dating apps for you
There are lots of different dating websites and apps for different needs, so do some research into as many of them as you like and only sign up for those that feel right.
- Traditional websites that tend to feel more geared towards looking for – and finding – love, and which you will have to pay to use, such as (in Australia) eharmony and RSVP
- More generalised, social platforms such as Bumble, Hinge, Plenty Of Fish, and Happn, an app which enables you to connect with people you’ve crossed paths with in real life
- And of course, there are a variety of apps for people who are more inclined to be seeking – and up for – adult fun, such as Tinder. For no strings attached hookups you have platforms like Red Hot Pie and Adult Match Maker
The list goes on! You can be on as many as you like, a number which may depend on your reasons for choosing internet dating in the first place, then also what outcome you are hoping to achieve. What’s your end-goal?
Internet dating red flags
Unfortunately (speaking from experience) internet dating can be a bit of a minefield. While you want to be open-minded about the process, you also need to remain vigilant as there are many troublesome – and in some cases downright dangerous – people operating online amidst all of the genuine people looking for love.
I have developed a red flag checklist of my own to (hopefully!) weed through the fake or potentially problematic profiles:
- Their profile photos don’t match the description e.g their eye colour doesn’t match or their hair colour is different.
- Their profile says they are widowed and/or reads like the ultimate dream partner. Sounds too good to be true? They probably are.
- They say they have a child who lives overseas – this is a common ‘hook’ for money. Never ever give anyone your money, or gift cards no matter how desperate they sound!
- Their photos are consistently model-perfect.
- Look for telltale signs they are in a different country, or may have stolen images from someone in a different country. For example, if they’re shown seated in a car – are they on the correct driver’s side for your country? Or can you see any powerpoints or light switches in their images? Are they the same as yours?
- Scammers will often ask you quickly to move from the dating site to a differed app to chat through apps such as Hangout or WhatsApp. Don’t.
If you are feeling unsure or unnerved about any interaction with someone online, trust your instinct. Plus you can always run photos through apps such as PicFind or TinEye, or use Google Reverse Photo to determine their origin.
Protecting your personal safety
Protecting your own personal safety should always be top of mind. So your profile photos shouldn’t give too much away. Are there landmarks in the background, for example, that you could be identified from? Avoid uploading photos of your children. And be careful who you entrust with your phone number.
If you are keen to meet, it is a good idea to try to physically meet within a few days. Otherwise, your imagination will run so wild that if and when you do ever meet, the person you’re meeting may unwittingly struggle to meet your imaginary expectations.
Once you’ve made your date, don’t let them pick you up, or disclose your address until you feel you really know (and trust) this new person in your life. Tell someone in your support network who you are meeting, and where, and if possible send them a photo and some identifying details (name, age, workplace if you know it) before you leave home.
Trust your instinct
I find that it is less intense or stressful to meet for a coffee date at first, rather than a full meal. You will know in the first five minutes what your gut tells you about this person. Regardless, it’s a good idea to limit your alcohol intake in the early days so you’re not clouded in your decision-making, or taken advantage of. It sounds preposterous, but don’t let your date buy a drink for you out of sight in a bar as it could easily be spiked. Be your own parent.
When meeting your date, keep the first meeting light and friendly; I try to find a middle ground between being open and authentic, and not giving too much away with regards to where I work or live.
As a midlife woman, it’s also possible that you will attract younger men (sometimes even 20 years younger!). If that’s your thing, go for it. But do keep checking in with yourself to ensure you feel happy and secure within yourself about the arrangement or relationship. Massive age gaps mean both parties are at different life stages and likely wanting different things.
Internet dating can be lots of fun and over the years I’ve met some really interesting, funny, and genuine people I’ve had lots in common with. My final advice would be to trust your instincts – they’re seldom wrong – so that you never lose yourself through the internet dating process and, if you’re really lucky, even finding your perfect match.