How to Safely Date Online

According to Pew, three-in-ten U.S. adults say they have used a dating site or app. That number climbs to 53% for people under the age of 30. More and more people are turning to digital platforms to find love and companionship or simply to expand their social circles. However, as the popularity of online dating grows, so do the potential risks associated with it. From privacy concerns to identity theft, the digital dating world can be fraught with peril if you’re not careful. But fear not, by following a few simple guidelines, you can navigate the online dating scene safely and securely.

This article is for you or anyone you know who may be hopping onto an online dating app like Match, Bumble, Plenty of Fish, eHarmony, Tinder, or OkCupid. Think of it as an advice column of a different sort, where we talk about dating in light of your online privacy and safety.

Protecting your privacy while dating online

For starters, we have a couple of previous blogs that offer sound advice about online dating. The first covers ways you can protect your privacy when you’re using online dating apps, which starts with picking a dating app that has a good reputation. The second rounds out the topic with further online dating advice for adults and teens alike. Give them a look!

Go into dating feeling confident and secure.

It starts with basic hygiene. Digital hygiene, that is. Before you dive into a dating app, ensure that your device (and all your connected devices while you’re at it) has a comprehensive security solution in place. As you surf, chat, and meet up online, you’ll want to know that you’re protected against malware, viruses, phishing attacks, sketchy links, and so forth. Other features will come in handy (and be necessary as well), like ones that help you manage your passwords, protect your identity, safeguard your privacy, and more—all of which we’ll talk about in a bit.

Pick a winner

Picking the right app is like picking the right date. From a security standpoint, these apps are the keepers of highly personal information about you, so you’ll want to know how they handle data, what privacy protections are in place, what information they gather when you first sign up, and what they continue to gather as you use the app. Do your research. Read up on their privacy policies. See what other people have to say about their experiences. And get a sense of what the app is all about. What’s its approach to dating? What kind of relationships are they focusing on? Make sure all of it feels right to you.

Don’t get too personal

Only give the app the information that’s absolutely necessary to sign up. Dating apps ask questions so that they can help you find an ideal match, yet only share what you feel comfortable sharing. This is true from a personal standpoint, but it’s true from a security standpoint too. Anything you share along those lines could be at risk of a hack or a breach, the likes of which were reported by Wired and Forbes last year. If your info is compromised, it could lead to anywhere from identity theft to harassment, so when you use a dating app, keep the sharing to a minimum—and keep your eyes peeled for any suspicious activity across your social media, online accounts, and even your finances.

Passwords are your pal

Another password to remember! That’s just what you need, right? Right! It absolutely is, and a strong one is vital. You can create one and manage all of your passwords with McAfee+’s password manager. It’ll encrypt your passwords and use multi-factor authentication, which offers even further protection from hacks and attacks on your account.

Use a VPN for extra privacy

You can help keep your chats more private, and just about anything else you’re doing online, by using a VPN (virtual private network). For example, our VPN uses bank-level encryption to keep your personal data and activities private from hackers. And it’ll hide other information associated with your dating account while you’re online, like personal details, credit card numbers, and so forth. Given the security risks we’ve talked about so far, you’ll want to look into a VPN.

Use caution with public Wi-Fi

If you’re not using a VPN on your device, don’t use your dating app on public Wi-Fi. The issue is this: plenty of public Wi-Fi hotspots aren’t secure. Someone else on the network could easily intercept the information you send over it, including your passwords, any photos you share, and any chats you have. In other words, using public Wi-Fi without protection is like opening a door that leads right to you and your most personal data. This applies to everything on public Wi-Fi, not just dating apps. If you use public Wi-Fi at all, you really should use a VPN.

In the ever-evolving landscape of online dating, safeguarding your privacy and security is paramount. By implementing strategies such as using strong passwords, employing a reliable VPN, and exercising caution on public Wi-Fi, you can navigate the digital dating sphere with confidence. Remember, your safety and privacy are non-negotiable priorities in the pursuit of love and companionship online.

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