If we were to rewrite a famous rom-com with a 21st century twist, it might go something like this:
Harry swipes right on Sally. Sally swipes right on Harry. After exchanging several cutesy, flirty, funny messages that would make Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan jealous, Harry invites Sally to catch them all with him at a well-known PokeStop. After the two catch many PokeMon, they finally exchange phone numbers and take a selfie together before getting in separate rideshares.
It’s possible that’s a true story. According to the Pew Research Center, 15% of American adults have used an online dating website or app. Those numbers were based on information from 2015. It stands to reason that an even larger percentage can be expected for 2016 and beyond, especially with Tinder—the most popular dating app—registering an estimated 7 million users every month.
The stigma of online dating has been mostly replaced with success stories and is now a culturally acceptable norm for meeting your significant other. It’s unfortunate that online dating was ever negatively judged, but some folks still seem stuck in a world where Harry meets Sally organically and goes through a series of awkward dates to get to know her.
We, of course, aren’t concerned with your dating life. We are concerned with your cyber life. As always, apps and websites require personal information and “permissions”. Whenever that’s the case, there’s an immediate concern for your safety. Add the fact that the intention of dating apps is to pair strangers in the physical world, and you have an overlap of cyber and physical security. That’s why we’ve put together 10 tips to keep you safe, both in the cyber and physical worlds.
1. Less is more.
First things first. When you set up a new profile, there’s no reason to give out more personal information than what’s absolutely necessary. Stick to the basics. Take one or two pictures that are of just you, use your first name only, and don’t disclose where you live (other than city), where you work or even what you do for a living. Strangers don’t need this information the first time they visit your profile.
2. Speaking of your profile picture…
Don’t use any pictures that you have on any other social media websites. Call us paranoid but we’d rather avoid the potential of someone doing a reverse image search and locating our personal profiles like Facebook and Instagram. By the way, be sure to set your social media accounts to private. Google indexes images from public Instagram accounts, which technically makes them searchable.
3. Strong passwords please.
We never get tired of telling people that they need to protect every single online account with a strong, unique password. Dating sites and apps are no exception. Believe us, cybercriminals would love to have full access to your dating profile. Don’t let that happen. Create passwords that don’t suck.
4. BYOD? Not recommended.
Always know and follow policy at work when it comes to company-issued devices. Most of these dating apps have vulnerabilities that give the bad guys access to sensitive information and put you and your organization at risk of a data breach. Know which apps you’re allowed to install, if any, and which devices are allowed to connect to your company’s network.
5. Keep devices up to date; routinely review security settings.
Smartphone apps are constantly sending out updates. Most of the time the updates are for new features or new designs. But they’re also to patch security issues. Stay on top of these updates. And routinely check the app’s security settings to make sure nothing has changed.
6. Super models don’t join dating sites.
If a profile picture reminds you of Chris Hemsworth or Rosie Jones, your spidey senses should be going haywire. It’s a cliché that we use often, but is so often accurate: if something is too good to be true, then it’s probably not true. Obviously, there are some beautiful people out there. Remain skeptical and use common sense.
7. Keep all communication through the website or app.
See step one: less is more. Don’t give out your personal email addresses or phone number. The most popular websites and apps have instant messaging as a built-in feature. There’s no reason to give your crush anything more until you’ve completely vetted this person, and are 100% sure he or she is safe. And this is true of all websites where you connect with strangers. Remember the Care.com scam? Trust no one.
8. Public places and familiar faces.
So, you think he’s the one, eh? When the time comes to meet the person you’ve been chatting with (the one you’ve fully vetted and are 100% sure is safe) do it in a well-lit and public location. Avoid crowded, dim bars or secluded restaurants. In fact, meeting for lunch or coffee in the middle of the day is a wise decision. It’s also good to see if a friend can be in the area, or even located at the same establishment to keep an eye on you.
9. Getting social.
Once you’re comfortable with someone and want to add them to your social media networks, it’s a good idea to review your privacy settings. Most sites allow you to customize who gets to see what. Keep your crush away from your family and limit the amount of information they can see at first. There’s no need to rush into things. Once you’ve established enough trust, you can update your privacy settings accordingly.
10. Happily ever after.
Congratulations! You’re in love and it’s just a matter of time before the wedding bells will be ringing. There are a lot of great stories out there like yours. We are truly happy you found someone. But we’re not done preaching. Your work is not finished. Once you’ve committed to your partner (on whatever terms you consider “commitment” to be) it’s time to close up shop. Remove all personal information from all your dating profiles and deactivate your accounts. No reason to leave any breadcrumb trails for cybercriminals.
Bonus Tip: Rideshare safety.
When Harry and Sally get in their separate rideshares, it’s important that they both sit in the front seat and never the back. The same is true for you every time you have to take a rideshare alone. By sitting in the front seat, you avoid a potential risky situation where the driver—a total stranger—can lock you in the car with the child safety locks. Look, it’s very unlikely anything will happen to you when taking advantage of all those convenient rideshare services. But why not always be safe?