The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has reported an alarming 50% increase in the costs of online romance scams from 2019 to 2020, amounting to a staggering $304 million. Furthermore, the number of reported romance scam cases has tripled between 2016 and 2020. Romance scams, similar to toxic relationships, are unequivocally not worth your time or money. To ensure your online interactions, particularly on social media, are secure, you need to take additional security measures. Let's work together on social media dating safety. https://www.kaspersky.com/resource-center/threats/beware-online-dating-scams #1 Beware of Red Flags and Emotional Manipulation During an online relationship, it's important to maintain awareness for any red flags that may arise and to avoid being blinded by love. Online, individuals can misrepresent themselves, making it crucial to be cautious and ensure the person you're interacting with is who they claim to be. Scammers, predators, and manipulative individuals may attempt to take advantage of your trust, necessitating a discerning eye. Here are a few common signs indicating a potential red flag: \tGiving vague answers to specific questions \tDisplaying excessive intimacy or romantic gestures at an early stage of communication \tDemonstrating possessive behavior towards you \tPressuring you to disclose personal information such as your home address, phone number, or work address \tAttempting to acquire your personal information under the pretense of sending gifts \tMessages that automated seem or run through a translator \tRefusing to engage in phone calls or video chats Take note of any red flags you encounter while browsing profiles or interacting with matches online so you can identify them again in the future. #2 Take Your Time with Next Steps While engaging in online dating, you will likely encounter profiles expressing preferences such as "Not seeking pen pals" or "Swipe left if you're not interested in meeting up." While meeting potential partners in person holds significance, it is crucial not to feel forced to do so until you are completely comfortable. There's no need to feel embarrassed or pressured if you prefer to wait longer—the right person will respect your need for time to establish comfort. #3 Limited Personal Information Online Potential dates are likely to perform thorough Internet searches on your name. They might discover your office location on LinkedIn, your address tagged in an Instagram post, or your phone number linked to an online ad. Avoid posting any identifying details on your profile, such as your address, phone number, or personal email. #4 Privacy Settings and Profile Control Ensure that you limit the information shared on your other virtual platforms. Set your security settings to private on all social media accounts and refrain from authorizing apps to post your location. By the way, you can create a separate Instagram account for communication. Don't worry if Instagram isn't available in your country. If you want to get back to Instagram, you have everything you need for this, except VPN. You can unblock Instagram using VeePN. #5 Reverse Image Search for Suspicious Profiles https://extension.usu.edu/relationships/research/pros-and-cons-of-online-dating-in-later-life To ensure the authenticity of your potential partner, it is crucial to verify their identity by checking for their photos elsewhere. For instance, compare their dating profile image with their Twitter profile picture. Social media platforms like Twitter often reveal a person's unfiltered side, potentially exposing undesirable traits. Moreover, you can determine if they are using a fake photo of a model or celebrity. Action Step: Copy the profile picture of your potential match and perform a Google Images search on your computer, or use a reverse image search on your phone. Google will utilize facial recognition, landmark identification, and photo binary data to authenticate the photo's source. #6 Meeting in Public and Telling Friends To ensure your safety when meeting someone in person after connecting online, it is important to carefully choose a meeting location. Avoid meeting at your home or office, as this could enable them to track you down later. Additionally, avoid secluded locations; if your date pressures you to meet somewhere inappropriate, you should end the date immediately. Take proactive steps before heading out to meet your virtual date. Inform a roommate or friend about the details of your meeting, including the location and the estimated time of your return. Consider arranging a "safe call" where a friend can check in on you during the date, ensuring your comfort. It is always recommended to drive yourself to and from the date, rather than relying on someone you met online for transportation. Conclusion Dating is always associated with risks because you practically do not know with whom you are communicating. Is this a reason to reject everyone? Perhaps the best solution would be to follow safety precautions. Yes, you will have to refuse many, but you will weed out unnecessary acquaintances, keeping those that will benefit you personally and help you have a good time.