These days it seems like everyone’s finding love online. Or if they’re not finding it, they’re a part of the 40% of Americans using online dating apps to build a potential relationship. But is online dating safe, and a reliable means for making a lifelong connection? The latter may be difficult to prove, but we’re here to answer the big questions you have about how to date online safely. Understanding and practicing these tips will make online dating safer. It will also help protect your security as you start searching for a digital connection with the right person.

How to Date Online Without Putting Yourself in Danger

The root problem to online dating is that you never know who’s at the other end of the screen. Yes, it just might be the love of your life but it could also be an identity thief or professional scammer. Here are a few ways you can securely search for the right person:

Plan it Out

Readers wondering how to date online without putting themselves in danger should first take some time to plan out their dating site profile. Evaluate who you are as a person and how you can portray this online without oversharing. Remember that you’re preparing to reveal this information with complete strangers. This means they probably shouldn’t know that you like to get breakfast at the Denny’s on Main Street every Saturday at 10:00 a.m. Personal details like your birthday or office address should also remain private. Wait until after you’ve made a meaningful connection with this person, had a chat on the phone and maybe even met in person before sharing those types of details.

Find the Right Picture

Next up, you need to pick the right picture for your profile. While we’re not here to tell you whether that selfie with the good lighting will get you more prospects, we will suggest you avoid using any photos that reveal too much information. This includes pictures that make it too obvious where someone can find you, such as those taken around your neighborhood.

The Big No No’s

Finally, to safely date online you should:

  1. Steer clear of including your phone number or address anywhere in your profile. If you want to talk to your matches on the phone before meeting in person, use a Google voice number instead.
  2. Another tip is to keep your primary email separate from your dating app profile. Instead, link your dating profile with a secondary email address. Doing this will not only keep your primary email address’s inbox from overflowing but also gives you an extra layer or privacy.
  3. Next, keep your whereabouts private by turning off location-based matching systems. While this feature can be useful for finding dates in your local area, it can easily backfire by letting users know exactly where you’re at. Or where you’re not, such as if you’re out of the house and they decide your absence is the perfect opportunity to break into your home.

A man in his late twenties is looking at his smartphone while standing in front of a window.

How to Online Date: What Should I Be Doing and Sharing?

Say you’ve been using an online dating site for a couple weeks and you’ve made a connection. Congratulations! But before believing you’ve mastered how to online date, there’s still important steps you need to take for your safety. Here are a few easy ways you can ensure your potential match is who they really say they are.

Video Chat Before Meeting

What better way to break the ice and get an idea of who your match is before the big in-person date than by speaking with them face-to-face beforehand? Set up a quick video chat date on your favorite platforms like FaceTime, Google Hangouts or Skype.

Talk on the Phone Before First Date

Similar to video chat, talking on the phone before the in-person date is a great ice breaker. It’s also another great way to get to know the person you’ve been messaging online. Lastly, speaking to them on the phone can help you screen for red flags you might not be able to catch through messaging on dating apps.

Google the Person

When you’re online dating, it’s okay to do some research on the person you’re swiping right on. Doing a quick Google search will help you learn if the person you’re connecting with on the dating app actually exists. A little studying up will also provide you with useful details that can help you better understand if this potential match is right for you.

Share the News

Before going on your date, let some close friends or family members in on the loop. Make sure they know the basics, like who you’re date is, where you’re going, what time you’re meeting and when you plan to return home. That way if something goes wrong and you’re not back on time, they’ll know to take action.

Meet in a Public Place

Having other people around on your date will not only relieve the stress of spending time with a new person but can also keep you out of harm’s way. This means the crowded new bistro up the street that you swore off might just be the right place for a first date. At least if something were to go wrong, there are people around that can quickly step in.

A senior woman is typing on her laptop.

What is the Best Online Dating Site for Me?

Not all dating sites are created equal. Depending on your age, interests or values you might have a greater chance of finding love on one dating site than another. When trying to decide what the best online dating site is for me, you should put some of the following factors into consideration.

What’s My Age Again?

Your age can play a deciding factor on which dating application you’ll have the most luck with. Some sources suggest young adults will typically enjoy Tinder, Facebook Dating or OkCupid more than the older crowd. Others believe adults of a more mature age can find more potential matches on sites like eharmony, where many users are looking for a strong connection that can transition into something long-lasting.

However, the only person who knows which dating app you’ll enjoy the most is yourself. So research these sites, evaluate success stories and review the studies showing the age bracket most likely to be online. The site that meets most of your needs is the site you should be using.

What Do I Like?

Depending on your level of comfort, some dating sites simply won’t work for you. For example, women who are ready to make the first move will enjoy Bumble’s progressive platform. Meanwhile, men who just aren’t comfortable with a woman asking them on a date should avoid using Bumble. Similarly, a woman who hates cats shouldn’t waste her energy trying to build a lasting connection on a site made for cat lovers searching for love.

Understanding your interests and preferences will help guide you toward a platform with a pool of like-minded users, therefore increasing your odds of finding prospects.

How Much Are You Willing to Spend?

Unfortunately, quite a few online dating services require you to spend a little money to have a chance at love. eharmony, Match.com, Zoosk and more have subscription programs that can cost up to $55 a month. The upside to paying is the features you have access to once you start subscribing. This includes the ability to actually message your connections, seek lessons from a dating coach and have your profile highlighted across the site for a greater chance of reaching more connections. So, how much are you willing to spend on love?

A man and woman are romantically smiling and looking at each other while standing on the beach.

Now That You Know How to Date Online

Online dating is an exciting phenomenon that has made it possible for people around the world to find and make a connection with others. When you use dating applications with caution by exercising the steps above, you’ll make the whole process run smoother. Now get out there and start putting together that epic bio for your profile.