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Lifestyle

5 online dating tips to keep you safe while you search for The One

The pandemic sparked a rise in virtual meetups for work and social events. We kept in touch with friends, family and employers via video conferencing, social media and text groups.

Social restrictions made it hard to meet new people, and for some of us, it still is. Fortunately, there’s an app for that. There are several. Tap or click here for five apps to help you make new friends in your city.

What if you’re looking for something beyond friendship? Dating sites and apps have been around for a long time, and there’s nothing wrong with using tech to find the right person. But be careful. These sites are full of dishonest people and scammers. You can genuinely get burned. Here’s what to watch out for.

1. Keep sensitive information (and photos) out of your profile

Your online profile helps you stand out from countless others. You want to create an engaging bio that will make people want to know more about you. Write about your hobbies, interests and goals. Let people know what you’re looking for. And leave out the negativity.

Speaking of leaving things out, don’t include any identifying information such as your home address, workplace, email address or phone number. Don’t mention anything about your financial situation. Keep it vague — you don’t want to give anyone information they can use to identify you online.

The same rules apply to your photos. Don’t take a picture in front of your house or the building where you work. Those photos could be used to pinpoint your location. Keep friends and family out of the pictures to respect their privacy and safety.

Don’t use the same photos you use on social media. Someone performing a reverse image search on your dating profile can then find your other accounts.

Even the most basic information can be plugged into a people search site to get more information on you. Tap or click here for our growing list of these invasive sites with instructions on opting out.

2. Check out your match’s photos

So you’ve matched with someone. Congratulations! You’re probably looking at their photos before anything else. Don’t worry! This is normal and expected.

Wait a minute. Do all their photos look like a professional photographer took them? Does he look like a Calvin Klein model? Does she look like she was in a Sports Illustrated Swimsuit photoshoot? Bad news: It’s likely a fake profile.

Scammers steal photos from magazines, websites and social media profiles to lure unsuspecting victims. They’ll even use celebrity photos. If their gallery looks too good to be true, then it probably is. Unmatch them and move on.

If you’re not sure about a photo, try a reverse image search:

  • Go to images.google.com.
  • Tap the camera icon to search by image.
  • You can either upload a file or paste an image link.
  • If the photo comes up on multiple websites, it’s probably a fake profile. This search might also lead you to the social media profile from which the photo was stolen.

3. More red flags

There are quite a few warning signs that tell you to stay away from a profile. We’ll list some common ones:

  • Their profile has only one photo.
  • They have a link to their social media account in their dating profile. These people are just looking for followers — don’t waste your time.
  • They have links to other apps or websites.
  • Any mention of crypto, forex, gold, investing or stocks indicates a scammer.
  • Their profile states they’re looking to marry as soon as possible. You can run into legal trouble with these people.
  • Their profile is full of spelling and grammar errors.
  • An overly sexualized/flirty profile is prime bait used by scammers.

4. Your match moves too quickly

Once you strike up a conversation with someone, ask them questions. What are they looking for? What’s their favorite weekend activity? Keep it light so you can gauge their reactions.

If your match seems anxious to get off the app and move the conversation to the phone, that’s a red flag. They want your number so they can get closer to you or find out more about you (in a bad way).

With time, you can exchange numbers, but only after you’ve established a solid rapport and feel comfortable doing so. If you feel rushed in any way — to exchange information or meet up in person — tell them so. If they get defensive or aggressive, unmatch them and move on.

5. The sob story

So you’ve been talking to your match for a while. You know a lot about them (at least from what they told you), and you’re feeling good about how it’s going. It’s time to take it to the next level. You want to set a date to meet. Your match is delighted, but alas, they have a confession.

Their grandmother is sick and can’t afford the hospital bills. Their father needs surgery. They need rent money or their landlord is going to throw them out. They can’t afford their medication.

Could you help out?

The answer is a resounding NO. Don’t even reply. Unmatch and block them. If you’ve been talking on the phone, block their number.

This is what the scammer has been waiting for all along. They gained your trust and now they want your money. They may ask for a gift card, bank transfer, money through a payment app or any other means to get paid. It doesn’t matter if they’ve sent you photos or even if you had a video conference and they match their profile.

Someone in need would not ask a stranger for help in this manner. They are talking to multiple people like you, waiting to spring their trap. It may hurt to let someone go, but remember — they’re not the person you thought they were.

Bonus tip:

Whenever you give out your phone number, you’re giving away a lot of potential information about yourself. Someone could use your number to connect you to a leaked password or even intercept two-factor authentication codes. They can enter your number onto a people search site and find out more about you.

There’s a safe way to give your contact information to your match or anyone else you want to share it with. Use a secondary or burner phone number that can’t be traced back to you.

Google Voice is a free service that provides you with a phone number that works like any other. You can use it to place calls, send messages or fill out online forms. It works domestically and internationally, and you can use it on your iPhone, Android or computer.

Here’s how to start using Google Voice:

  • To download the app on your computer, head to voice.google.com/u/0/signup. You can also download the app for iOS or Android.
  • Then, sign in to your Google account.
  • After you review the terms, continue to the next step.
  • You’ll see a list of phone numbers. Select the one you want. (You can look for phone numbers from specific cities or area codes.)
  • Then, verify the number and enter a phone number you can link to your Google Voice account.
  • Lastly, you’ll get a six-digit verification code. Enter it and you’re all set!

Keep reading

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Four vital steps to protect your online accounts from hackers and scammers

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