Staying Safe While Online Dating

As part of a ‘Staying Safe Online’ campaign, Suffolk Police are offering advice aimed at users of online dating sites, to help protect themselves and their information.

Suffolk Police are urging people who use the internet for dating to protect themselves online.

When setting up a profile on a dating website, police are encouraging people to think about what information they are going to include. They suggest that people should not reveal anything that could identify themselves or put them in danger of identity fraud - such as birthdays, phone numbers, email addresses and maiden names.

Most dating websites have a open membership, meaning anyone can join. Police are reminding users to be cautious.

Chief Inspector Kerry Pauling of Community Safety said: “Dating sites are easily accessible and while the majority of users will be genuine you must remain vigilant. Just because someone says they are who they are doesn’t necessarily mean they are telling the truth. Dating sites are used by criminals in the same way social networking sites are and if you are not careful then there is a risk of identity theft. If at any point during interaction with someone you suspect they are not who they claim to be or you feel uncomfortable with what they are saying or asking then the best thing to do is end the conversation.”

Suffolk Police are also advising people to be careful when arranging to meet up with people that they have met online, as they cannot be entirely sure who they are. They also say that it is not advisable to meet online 'friends', but if they do want to meet, a friend should be told the details of the meeting and it should be arranged in a public place.

Below are some basic guidelines the police are providing to help people to stay safe when using online dating sites:
·    Always do a background check on the website. Make sure it is reputable and check if there is someone you can contact about safety.
·    Do not give out your personal information to others in your chats or on your profile. This includes your exact address, your birthday or your full name.
·    Be careful about what images and messages you post, even among trusted friends – once they are online they can be shared widely and can be extremely difficult to get removed.
·    Do not reveal too much when chatting. Online predators can pick apart your conversation to piece together your whereabouts.
·    Keep a record of your conversations. This will ensure you have evidence if you run into problems later.
·    Do not rely on a photo or believe everything people write, as it can sometimes be completely made up.
·    If you call someone to arrange a meeting or just have a conversation then block your number first by dialling 141.
·    If you do meet up, make sure it is in a public place and at least one person knows when and where you are meeting.

People wanting more information should visit www.e-victims.org for more online dating tips and how they can protect themselves and their information online.

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