One of our key roles as one of the leading voices in the UK on dating matters is to strongly promote safer dating. The last year was not a good one for online dating, with significant levels of criticism in the press and on TV and many ordinary people have become extremely concerned about being able to date safely and as risk free as possible, we see it as part of our role to highlight the problems that are occurring and to try to ensure that everyone is aware that issues can happen, how best to avoid them if at all possible but also highlight the most effective ways to cope if they do happen to you.
The past year has seen criticism in the press and in the BBC’s Panorama programme ‘Tainted Love’ of many aspects of the way that online dating have been promoting themselves and selling memberships of their sites. Basically they highlighted the following:-
- That teams of Head Office staff were targeting new members who had signed up for a ‘free’ profile and bombarding them with messages from fabricated profiles in an attempt to get them to pay, with this very high level of interest subsiding as soon as money had changed hands.
- That many thousands of profiles were fake or fabricated by married people, using the photos of other people, such as celebrities or political figures. The BBC calculated that these could possibly run into millions in the UK alone.
- Also that clients highly confidential and intimate personal details and photographs were being bought and sold by companies, without the clients knowledge or permission.
This linked to the fact that online dating fraud is now running in excess of £35,000,000 per annum and that is just what is reported to the Police, in addition to this there would be a figure for fraud that people have decided to keep quiet about perhaps out of embarrassment and a further figure that is nipped in the bud before it becomes a crime statistic. So let’s be clear we are talking about an enormous amount of money here and one of the fastest growing types of crime in the UK. We have also seen dozens of cases of violence this year too and some extreme cases at that, so without a doubt this an area that needs to be in the public domain before it can be effectively tackled. Online dating can be fun but it is also something that you need to be aware is a risk. There are no requirements whatsoever in the UK for background checks on joiners and that means that unless the companies are doing this voluntarily, then it is probably not happening, meaning that people with convictions for fraud, violence or sex offences are perfectly at liberty to sign up online if they wish. Other forms of dating can be much more stringent, with many personal introductions companies conducting very thorough background checks and also some dating event companies check identities and addresses before they would allow an individual to join an event. if you are in any doubt ask the question and check this out with the company directly. Here are our hints and tips for dating safely:
- Never give out too much of your personal information to a potential date, such as your home address or place of work.
- Meet during daylight hours on all of your first dates without exception.
- Always meet on ‘neutral territory’ and in a public place – never go to someones house, allow them to come to yours or arrange to be picked up.
- Coffee shops, restaurants, museums or art galleries can be useful places to meet initially.
- Stay vague about you home address and place of work.
- Remember giving a postcode can help someone track you down very easily and these days photographs taken with smart phones often show their location too, including the name of your road.
- Don’t get into a car together on a first date, if you want to ‘go on somewhere’ drive separately or take a taxi.
- Trust your intuition and instinct, that 6th sense can help a lot and if in doubt, get out of there, by making an excuse and leaving!
- Always tell a friend or family member where you are going, get them to text you or call to let them know you’re ok and have a handy ‘got to end the date excuse ready’ if needed.
- And last but not least, use a responsible dating or introductions agency that does complete background checks, checks out the persons ID with photographic evidence and interviews people personally. They do exist and are often not much more expensive than DIY dating on the internet.
Don’t date on the cheap – this is a potential life partner you may well be looking for, so invest in that goal properly with a professional dating organisation or personal matchmaker. The alternative is just not worth it!