Online Dating Warnings, Statistics, Stalking, Sextortion, Harassment, Catfishing, Abuse; Dating App Safety Tips

Online dating has come a long way since the days of Not only are there more people on dating sites and apps but there are more options available (swipes, curated matches, search etc.). The days of usernames on dating sites is quickly fading.

GPS tracking along with the amount of information available on dating apps, websites and social media make dating apps more dangerous than ever.

Below are an exhaustive set of items to consider when using dating apps when it comes to privacy and safety as well as how to limit your information, etiquette around filling out details on your profile as well as what information each apps displays and how to make your profile invisible to others.

Related read: Online dating red flags.

Related read: What to know before reporting people on dating apps


Is Online Dating Safe? Dating Apps Safety Tips, Dangers Of Online Dating

Like all things in like, nothing is safe. With that said, there are numerous things one can do to protect themselves from dangers, scams and the like. Be cautious, limiting public information, being patient, asking questions and checking in with others is recommended.

Apps don’t do background checks on people. Just like if you met someone at a bar, you don’t know anything about them. People can lie, misrepresent themselves and the like.

Related readHow/when to report someone on Hinge, Bumble & Tinder


How Do You Stay Safe On A Dating App? How To Protect Yourself On A Dating Site,

Divulging hometowns, neighborhood residences, colleges attended, Instagram handles and daily routines can easily provide creeps, thieves and scammers with the information needed to know more about you than you ever intended.

Sure it’s important to not leave dating profiles blank as to reduce the possibility of being thought of as a catfish, but at the same time, it’s not necessary to divulge every detail, specific.

This coupled with the amount of data shared on dating profiles, the introduction of reverse image searches and data from other social media sites can lead to greater exposure for stalking, scamming, embarrassment and identity theft.

It’s important to understand how others can use the information you post online against you. Protecting yourself and your identity is highly recommended when meeting strangers and putting your profile online.

Not only have I helped countless folks with their photos, bio and app choices, but I have trained folks in how to recognize red flags and remain vigilant when creating profiles, reviewing profiles and going on dates (see press coverage here). Below are some dating app safety tips everyone should know about.

National Sexual Assault Hotline: 800-656-4673. Talk to a trained staff member from a nearby group that helps victims of sexual assault.

Online Dating Abuse, Dating App Sexual Harassment, Dating App Stalking

I would be lying if I said this doesn’t happen often or is unlikely to you. There is a lot of bad, atrocious behavior on dating apps and while some of it can be avoided, much of it is not. Some people take rejection badly. Others will give you a piece of their mind if you cancel a first date or choose not to go on a second date. Some people will stalk you online if you ghost them.

Maintaining privacy, limiting public info, and ignoring DM’s (direct messages) will go a long way to tune out any verbal abuse. With that said, much of this behavior is underreported (fear or thinking nothing will happen or it happens to everyone). This is not normal. Individuals are not reported nearly enough on dating apps and much of the behavior happens offline on through other communication tools.

Document everything, and report when possible. Don’t rely on apps to do what is best or is needed to create a safe community.

Online Dating Advice For Women

Screening Profiles, Why Don't Guys Reply, Low-Effort Messages, Overwhelmed w/ Matches, Signs He's Not Into You, What Your Dating Photos Signal, Coffee Dates, Lying About Age, 'No Hook-ups' In Profile & More

I have researched all the major dating apps inside out: monitor product releases, evaluate marketing campaigns and analyze trends, customer satisfaction and safety concerns.

Understanding their strengths, audiences, privacy concerns, monetization efforts, demographics and business models will go a long way to determining what (if any) dating apps are best for you.

Below are just a handful of things you should consider before sign up for dating apps from a privacy and safety perspective.

Related read: Creepy Behavior On Dating Apps


Why Do People On Dating Sites Ask For Phone Number, Why Do Guys On Ask For Numbers?

Some people unmatch so you can’t see their activity on the apps. Others might do it to free up their match queue and make it easier to chat with others on the apps. Some might use it to look up info about you on the internet.

A few others unmatch to make it harder to identify them if they do something creepy or threatening in person or on other apps. I also recommend keeping communication on the app until you meet the person and feel safe.

Related read: Online dating messaging etiquette


How To Say No To Giving Your Number On A Dating App, Pushy Guys On Dating Apps

Typically, I recommend guys offer up their phone number to a woman in advance of a date. Asking for a number is not necessary until after you meet on a date in person.

If a guy is pushy about trying to get a number from you, take that as a red flag or even a deal-breaker (heck, just unmatch, block or report if necessary). No need to give an excuse.

Giving out IG gives out too much info about you (privacy, locations, routines, hang-outs etc). A Google Voice number is better but again, most first dates don’t lead anywhere so no need to give out numbers at all.

With that said, you will need to be attentive on apps and expect to confirm dates, especially if too much time is in between planning.

I know apps are buggy sometimes but app communication is sufficient. Don’t ignore clues about someone’s impatience, or manners.


Is It Safe To Give Your Phone Number Online Dating? (Bumble, Hinge)

Set up accounts with Google Voice and stay on the apps’ communication and messaging tools early on until you feel comfortable with the person.

Most phone numbers can be Googled often with giving away home addresses and personal info.


Dating App Safety: Monitor Social Media, What To Be Aware Of When Online Dating

People are sharing more photos than ever before and often times the privacy settings can be tricky to manage or keep at intended levels. Photos can reveal a lot of information, more than you could ever know.

Facebook and Instagram are the two platforms that come to mind as the biggest culprits for unintended exposure. Scammers have been known to download photos from Facebook and Instagram and take on the user’s identity to create a dating profile. 

Don’t make your photos nor profiles public as this information contains hometown information, colleges attended and birthdays (think public posts on walls, birthday postings on Instagram etc.).

Photos are the first things scammers look for when creating a dating profile and often times when enough information is gathered, they can then lookup additional information on LinkedIn to build an exhaustive profile. 

Do a reverse image search of your public photos to see where they turn up and adjust your privacy settings on Facebook and Instagram to hide photos, posts and demographic data. 

Related read: Creepy Behavior On Dating Apps

Do you check into Barry’s Bootcamp on Yelp/Foursquare every Monday at 8am? Do you constantly post gym selfies at your Zumba class? Do you post photos the view from your porch or window on Instagram? Do you reference going to the Fort Mason farmers market every Sunday?

These innocent pieces of information reveal your routines i.e. where you are likely to be found and when you are likely not to be home. Thieves can use this to break into your home. Creeps can identify your routines and follow you home from work, gym or grocery stores.

There is nothing wrong with expressing your hobbies but limit the audience, detail or timing of such posts, check-ins and photos. Also, take off your work ID badges when not at the office. It is easy to view them on the bus, waiting in line at lunch or at the bar during happy hour.

Online Dating Privacy: Limit The Information On Dating Profiles

Dating apps are notorious for requesting a significant amount of information from user’s to fill out a profile.

While I believe not listing enough information on your profile can hurt your chances for success (i.e. too few photos, not enough biographical data) there is such a thing as TMI (too much information) displayed on dating profiles.

When listing hometown, you don’t have to list the exact town you grew up in, a general area is suffice. This makes it easier to protect your identity (think password reminder questions – see below).

Your exact job title and company is not necessary when filling out your profile for Bumble (use more generic terms i.e. product marketer at ed-tech company or analyst at financial services firm). Apps/sites like Bumble are the most vulnerable as people are more than willing to supply this info via LinkedIn.

Do not use your LinkedIn headshot as one of your dating photos. All dating profile photos should be found via a Google search, they should be private. With respect to names, don’t use an initial or screen name, just change the spelling of your name to make it harder to find you online.

If you come across someone who lists their Instagram handle or website, assume they are super vain, trying to solicit followers or are fake accounts (read this guide on how to spot fake profiles). Don’t leave your dating profile blank or incomplete but also do not list every detail to a T.

Online Dating Coaching For Men, Women

Help w/ swiping, timing, app choice, messages, filters, deal-breakers, paid features, screening profiles, reading people, ID'ing red flags/liars/time-wasters, date planning, & using dating apps more effectively & efficiently.

Password Recovery and Reminder Questions

Answers to password reminders can be figured out with enough information. Dog’s name on Instagram? Nickname on Yelp? Place of birth? Favorite activity? High School name or mascot on Facebook? Favorite color?  Most of this information does not need to be displayed online anywhere.

A favorite color is not going to get you closer to getting a date nor finding your soul mate. Take the time to think of such password reset questions you have been asked and then think about where this information might be displayed so you can take the necessary steps to hide or limit visibility.


First Date Planning, Online Dating, First Date Safety Tips

I hate to tell you but most first dates from online dating can be waste of time, it happens. If you are lucky there is no chemistry and you part ways. The worst case scenario you meet someone who is controlling, obsessive and creepy.

Protect yourself while going on those early dates. Meet at a public location (let someone know where you will be and when), take a cab home or have plans to meet up with a friend afterward, check in with a friend 20 minutes into your date to confirm your whereabouts.

If you have reason to suspect a date is not trustworthy, minimize your exposure to having said date follow you home. If you don’t feel comfortable telling someone in person on the first date that you are not interested in him/her, then do so via the app that night, next morning. Ghosting is frowned upon unless there is a significant concern for your safety.

Back in the days of, it was quite common to exchange emails or phone numbers to communicate after matching. With the proliferation of apps, unlimited data plans and free Wi-Fi, communication is not they hurdle it once was.

There is no need to exchange phone numbers or personal contact info with someone before the first date. Most people would view this as a safety precaution vs some weird social behavior.

Just because you have exchanged some witty banter and know a few pieces of information about a user, doesn’t mean you should let your guard down. Use good judgment, don’t leave your drink alone with your date when you go to the restroom (basically use the same judgment you would if you meet someone offline – online is no different).

Be sure to use the restroom before you meet your date so that you don’t have to leave drinks unattended mid-date (or at least finish your drink before getting up). Limit yourself on alcoholic drinks when out with a stranger.

Just because you think you know a person through their profile, photos and messages doesn’t mean you can trust the person.

If in doubt, try a first date that doesn’t involve drinks. Go for a coffee, go to the farmer’s market, go to an art gallery. Make sure you have a plan for getting home so that you don’t have to rely on your date for transportation.


WhatsApp, Snapchat Etiquette, Should You Move From Bumble, Hinge To Whatsapp, Texting

Until you actually meet in person and go out on a date and decide you want to see each other for another date, there is absolutely no need to exchange phone numbers, emails, WhatsApp info, Snapchat accounts, Facebook Messenger, skype etc. if you don’t feel comfortable doing so.

Asking for information like ‘Where are you’ or ‘Please send me another photo’ should raise an eyebrow. If the person you are communicating with starts to develop feelings for you before you have met in person, this is a red flag.

It’s impossible to develop feelings for someone you don’t know. If this is not something triggers an alarm button for you then maybe asking for money or being too clingy is.

Not everything I point out is a red flag but enough coincidences should make you give pause. Another thing to look out for is the preferences of a user. If a person is seeking someone significantly older than he/she it could be a sign of trying to target someone for a scam.

Older folks are unfortunately targeted for financial scams whereas younger men are targeted for more video blackmail scams.


Unmatching On Dating Apps (Hinge, Bumble, Tinder) After Getting Number

Some people unmatch so you can’t see their activity on the apps. A few others unmatch to make it harder to identify them if they do something creepy or threatening in person or on other apps.

I recommend using a Google Voice number when using dating apps for this reason. I also recommend keeping communication on the app until you meet the person and feel safe.

Online dating experts agree that there is no need to move to 3rd party apps until you meet and know each other better.


Privacy: Snapchat Recordings, Screenshots

Although Snapchat messages disappear off the app in time and can’t be screenshot, that doesn’t mean people can’t record your images and video by pointing a camera or other phone to record said communication and images/videos on the primary device the user has the Snapchat account on.

The best way to avoid people circulating images and videos of yourself is to not take them in the first place.


Online Dating Blackmail, Sextortion, Virtual Video Dates; Do Sextortionists Follow Through

Video dates and and chats are on the rise. Be it because of busy schedules, cost of hiring and planning for a babysitter or just uneasiness of meeting a stranger in person. Many dating apps are encouraging people to go on virtual video dates.

Blackmail is on the rise in the online dating community. The best way to protect yourself is two-fold: 1) don’t post any photos of yourself you wouldn’t want your family, friends or employers to see and 2) don’t share any private or explicit photos with people via text, email etc.

Once photos enter the electronic domain, it becomes easier to hack, copy, screenshot, share and edit.

Do yourself a favor and review everything on your profile and devices and 3) do not engage in any video chats that are sexual in nature. Requesting video chats before your scheduled date is one thing but asking you to do things you don’t want to is another.

Hinge Video Chat

Hinge Video Chat, Video Dates: Hinge Video Calling

Verified Dating Profiles, Bumble Verification Requests, Tinder Verified Dating Profiles, Accounts

Apps like Bumble and The League have attempted to reduce fake profiles and catfishing by implementing a verified profile process within the app. This process entails a user editing their profile, taking a selfie in a specific pose.

Please note this does not confirm age, height, location, gender, intention but merely verifies you are a real person. If you fail the verification process your profile will be turned off meaning you can’t see anyone and no one can see you.

Typically this is a feature done at will by the user but can be required if your profile is reported as fake.

Tinder also has a verification process where it validates a profile is real but again, does not verify age, height, location, intent etc. – only a user can do this.


Account Verification Scam aka Tinder Verify Scam

Lately there is a new scam hitting the market called the account verification scam. The way it works is that a match inquiries about your authenticity and asks you for your verification code.

Unable to provide it they will ask you to verify your account, identity through a third party site. This site will ask for your credit card and will claim no charges will be made.

This scam (most often seen on Tinder) can cost users hundreds if not thousands of dollars. Dating sites and apps will never ask you to verify your account through a third party like this. Avoid at all costs. See story about this here.

I am not here to tell you shouldn’t do online dating nor am I trying to cause you more anxiety but I what I am saying is that we can all use some more discretion about the information we divulge online via social media, professional networking sites, and dating profiles.

Not everyone needs to know what you ate, where you workout, what your exact title is nor know intimate details about you that can be Googled easily.

Aside from a privacy perspective, this advice is intended to aid folks when meeting for first dates from online dating – leave some things to be discussed in person. There is nothing like being candid and spontaneous on a date otherwise what else is there to discuss when you meet?​

Assume your profiles will be seen by a co-worker, boss or business partner. Your profile should represent who you are but there is no need to overshare aspects you don’t want everyone to know.


Romance Scammers: Love Bombing, Online Dating Scammer Photos, List

Any list would be incomplete. The list is always growing. Use good judgment. Read this article and then read this post.

If you have been on dating apps long enough, then you may have been a victim of this act. Predators look for vulnerable people (shy, insecure, recently single, folks on dating apps for long periods of time) and try to get close quickly with strong, early, affectionate notes (aka love-bombing), messages, compliments, public displays of affection, long-term planning (trips, marriage) etc.

Related read: Most common romance scammer phrases according to the FBI


Bumble Updates Unmatch Feature (November 2020)

Bumble recently updated their unmatch feature so that if a user unmatches with you, their profile or message can still be accessed by the other person. Scammers and predators have unmatched their victims making it harder to report them but Bumble has now fixed this loophole.

If a user unmatches you, it will display “Looks like they ended the chat”. To report users, go to your messages, find greyed out profile, open the message and select help. From here, you will be able to delete the Bumble Chat or report the Bumble user.


How To Stay Safe When Meeting Someone Online, Risks Of Online Dating

Read this guide on online dating first dates.


Reporting Profiles, Bad Behavior, People To Dating Apps (Bumble, Tinder, Hinge)

Many apps let you report harassment within the app and while apps do not notify others who reported them or who got them banned, it’s possible the other person can figure this out. This link provides information on how to block users and report users within the app.

Reporting a user notifies the app that you think something is wrong. Not all reports lead to a ban on the app. Similarly, most apps if not all keep reports anonymous. With that said, sometimes users have such low interactions that they can more or less know who reported them.

This is all the more reason to limit your social media presence and keep communication on the app in the early stages. If you must, create a Google Voice number to so you don’t have to give out your real number to someone you are still getting to know.

Also, it’s recommended to screenshot profiles, messages on and off the app (before reporting) as users as savvy to block others or delete accounts prior to being reported if they have done something wrong.

Even with all these precautions, it’s still possible to meet awful people on the app. Take for instance this Hinge Date Gone Wrong with Benjamin Fancher.

Related read: Reporting People On Dating Apps


New To Online Dating - Beginner Guide To Dating Apps

 New to dating apps? Confused whether to try matchmakers, date-me-docs, speed dating or stick to offline efforts? If you are recently single, divorced, new to dating or just frustrated, let's talk!

How To Report Online Dating Scams, How To Report Sexual Assaults Through Dating Apps

The FTC has a great resource of possible types of scams to look out for. Read up on the latest information they provide as well as their online form to report scams.

Additionally, the FBI has an online form to report online crimes – check out that form as well.


Dating Service Provider Resources: How Do Dating Apps Keep People Safe

OkCupid Safety Tips

Tinder LGBTQ Travel Safety Feature

Hinge Safety Advice 


What Is The Safest Dating App? What Are The Most Trusted, Secure Dating Sites

No dating app is safer than the other – this is the approach you should take. All dating apps (and apps for that matter) can be exploited. It’s better to protect yourself, be patient, ask questions, use good judgment, screen profiles and read people.


Online Dating App Safety: Tinder Safe Feature, Safe Dating Verification Site

Ignore this site altogether. Don’t click on it.


Online Dating Horror Stories, Are Dating Apps Safe? Is Online Dating Dangerous? 

Horror stories are everywhere when it comes to dating apps but there is usually a common thread around them. Read this article on Vice.

In nearly all situations, people used poor judgment (mistaking sex for relationship intentions, going to a strangers place on a 2nd, 3rd date, having sex very early in a relationship, texting everyday for a month (overly investing oneself in a stranger), ignoring signs of love-bombing after 2 dates, ignoring red flags and expecting people to change for you (telling you he doesn’t wear condoms) and booking a hotel room after 1 date.

Online dating requires patience, quality time and the ability to use good judgment and not ignore red flags. Being on apps because you are lonely or just broke up with someone and terrible reasons to use apps let alone date.


Dangers Of Online Dating Statistics

Read this.


Online Dating Tips For Seniors, Dating App Safety Tips For Seniors

-Don’t fall in love with anyone you have not met in person

-Do not give bank account/financial info to anyone

-Note, scammers target widows, lonely folks, wealth folks, and folks who may look like they don’t date often

-Don’t click on links of any kind sent to you by others

-If it is too good to be true, it probably is


Safe Dating Apps, Safest Dating Sites

No app is 100% safe, just like no bar is 100% safe. Learn to how to screen profiles, read people, ask questions, take your time getting to know people and avoiding dangerous situations.


Advice For Online Dating Safety, Dating App Safety Concerns, Hinge, Bumble

Assume any and all conversations, video chats, attachments etc. will or can be saved. These days there are plenty of apps to record screens that block screenshots (particularly Snapchat) and of course there is recording of screens with another device.

Too often scorn lovers may resort to unfortunate and awful tactics to get back at exes so protect yourself.

If you are alone, single, divorced or are suffering from depression, scammers are more likely to target you. Ideally you should be using apps once you are in a good place or are on your way to recovery, coping.

Often times people who fall victims to scams are swept off their feet with compliments, praise, affection etc. even before meeting the person. If someone is overly affectionate or romantic before having met, take that as your first red flag.

It’s up to you to be patient, ask questions, meet in person, and use good judgment while on dating apps. When in doubt about someone ask a friend, family member or professional for advice or a simple gut-check on a person you met who seems to have fallen head over heels for you based on your online profile.


About Eddie Hernandez

Eddie is a dating coach for men & women in San Francisco (clients in NYC, LA, Chicago, & beyond ), as seen in the NYT & Bumble). He helps w/ profiles, photos, wardrobe, messaging, date ideas, red flags, lifestyle choices, hobbies, grooming/hygiene, communication, social skills & offline efforts.