3 Mistakes You’re Making While Online Dating That Are Putting You In Danger

You’re a hot twentysomething who’s so wrapped up in building your career, that you have zero time to find love. While your friends meet hot guys at yoga, it the dog park, or even at bars, you wouldn’t know anything about that because by the time you leave the office, all you’re capable of physically doing is going home and face planting down onto your bed (that you didn’t bother to make when you left the house at 6 a.m.).

So, what does an insanely busy career woman do when she wants to go out on a date? She creates an online dating profile, sits back, and waits for the offers to come pouring in, right? It’s true that online dating has officially replaced begging your friends to set you up on embarrassing blind dates, but most users don’t fully understand all the potential dangers associated with putting yourself out there on the Internet. Some savvy digital daters use services like Instant Checkmate to background check dates before meeting up in person. While this is certainly a great start, there are several steps you can take to make your online dating profile more secure—today.

1) Don’t give out your personal email

These days, your email address is heavily tied to other personally identifying online accounts. If you have a gmail account, chances are, you also have a Google+ account that’s connected to your email. Online dating safety experts recommend creating a brand new, free account with Yahoo!, Gmail, or Hotmail to use solely for online dating. This way, if you start getting a weird vibe from someone you’re chatting with, you can simply cancel the email account, and that person will be unable to track you down. Also, make sure you don’t have any other contact information listed in your signature line. You wouldn’t want some creep getting a hold of your phone number, or even worse—finding out where you live.

2) Don’t use pictures from Facebook in your dating profile

I know, your profile picture on Facebook is so flattering, it would be perfect for your dating profile too! But wait, using pictures of yourself from other websites can actually put you at risk. If someone sketchy came across your profile and liked what they saw, they could save your photo and do a reverse image search to see if that same picture is posted anywhere else online. Suddenly, your blog, Facebook profile, Twitter account, and more will pop up in their reverse image search, and that person will have access to a wealth of personal information about you. Keep your online dating life and your social media life separate by using unique photos that can’t be found anywhere else on the Internet.

3) Don’t use your real name as your username

Many online daters simply use their first and last name as their usernames for the dating site. I completely understand why you would want to set yourself apart from all the douchbags with screen names like “SexyKitten45” or “Sugar_Baby23.” Gross. Naturally you want to interested suitors know that you’re a growna** woman, who doesn’t use words like “kitty” or “honey baby” to describe herself. But, using your real first and last name can leave you open to harassment and stalking. If you’ve ever indulged in a self-Google (and you know you have) then you’re already well-aware of how much information is publicly available about you just from searching your name. Keep the weirdos at bay by picking a unique screen name that can’t be connected to your real-life identity.

Everyone knows the online dating safety basics: meet in a public place, don’t get wasted, drive yourself there, and tell a friend where you will be. But, most people don’t realize that the information contained in their dating profile could be putting them at risk. Follow the three tips outlines above to prevent creepers, scammers, and stalkers from latching onto you.

Audrey Hampton is a dating and relationship blogger from New York. She specializes in writing about online dating safety and women’s issues.