Are you looking to expand your digital bubble and meet new people? Although they had a less-than-stellar reputation when they came on the scene, dating apps are now an established and respected tool for finding dates and relationships. With all the fun and excitement of dating, it’s still important to stay safe while looking for your next boo or bae! We’ve compiled our top tips and  advice for looking for love online.

Most dating sites are for users 18 and over. If you’re concerned that you know someone underage who has been contacted on a dating app, you should read our advice on grooming.

ONLINE DATING TERMINOLOGY

To get you up to speed, here’s a few key words and terms you might find when you’re dating online:

  • Swipe left/right: On most apps, you ‘swipe’ a profile to the right side of your screen to indicate that you are interested in that profile, and you ‘swipe’ left if you aren’t interested
  • Match: When you’ve both swiped right on each other indicating you both like each other
  • Bot: A fake, automated account, usually designed by scammers to collect personal information
  • Catfish: Someone who pretends to be someone else. We’ve got more information here on how to tell if someone’s real or catfishing
  • Ghosting: When someone ‘vanishes’ i.e. stops texting or messaging you without explanation
  • IG/SC: Short for Instagram and Snapchat respectively, a lot of people will share their handles/usernames on their profiles. Watch out – many people create online dating profiles simply to get more online followers.

WHAT ARE SOME OF THE RISKS?

There are a lot of benefits to dating, but there are some risks people need to think about too.

  1. Protecting your privacy: It may be tempting to start telling your new fling about every single details of your life. However, it’s important to note that any personal information could be shared further. For example, scammers could use your photo and details to make fake profiles (potentially in your name). Your personal and financial information could be used to commit identity theft or used to harass you.In particular, you should always think before sharing your full name, your address, your phone number, your place of work, your address, whether you have children, your children’s photos, your email address, your credit card details, or other financial information. Before adding someone on social media, think about all the personal information they might be able to find there too! Now is a good time to review your privacy settings on your social media accounts – Netsafe’s website has more information about checking your privacy on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter.
  2. Nudes:  Now this is the big one! Everyone seems to know someone who has shared nudes and it can sometimes seem like a really good way to get intimate with someone digitally. The danger with sharing nudes is that you really can’t control what happens from there. We’ve had numerous reports where people have had their nude images shared with others ‘as a joke’, for revenge, or as a tool for blackmail – and often these can happen after a relationship ends. Even if you are using apps that make images ‘disappear’, there are ways to take screenshots and recordings without your knowledge.It’s not okay to be pressured into sharing nudes. If you are going to share nudes, make sure that you are aware of the risks and that it’s your decision. You can read more about nudes and sexting as well as advice on how to handle unsolicited nudes.
  3. Getting scammed: Sometimes it can take a lot of sorting through trash to find the treasure. There are a lot of opportunistic people that take advantage of the heightened emotions of online dating and our romance scam advice is worth reading. If you’re concerned that the person isn’t who they say they are, you could try include requesting a video call as most scammers or catfishers will be hesitant to talk through a video call or do a reverse image search. Google allows people to upload a photo into their reverse image search tool and it will show you other places where that image can be found online. This can be a good way to check whether a profile photo has been taken from someone else.Other signs to watch out for include:
    • moving quickly including confessions of love in a short time of matching
    • moving off the app quickly to email or another website where they aren’t subject to the dating app’s community guidelines
    • requests for money from large offshore gestures for plane tickets to petrol money for dates, should be treated as suspicious
    • asking you to pay for a service as a ‘verified dater’. This is a scam – although most dating apps have paid options, these give you access to more ‘swipes’ and all apps can be used free of charge.

TIPS FOR STAYING SAFE WHEN MEETING UP

When it’s finally time to meet face to face, here’s a few tips on how to do that safely to:

  1. Get to know them first: Try to get to know the person online first before meeting up with them in person. It’s safer to keep these communications limited to the dating app or website you’re using rather than moving to another platform as then you’ll be covered by the Terms of Service and Community Guidelines
  2. Choose a public meeting place: Have a plan of what to do if something doesn’t feel right and if you want to leave. If you feel uncomfortable, it’s okay to leave.
  3. Tell someone where you are going
  4. Organise your own transport
  5. Stay sober

GETTING STARTED

Now that you know about the risks, here our guide to getting started on some of the most popular apps out there: 

Getting Started with Tinder 

Tinder was one of the first dating apps, and remains the most popular dating app in the world. Tinder will have the biggest ‘pool’ of potential dates to impress. For more information visit Tinder’s Help Centre and Tinder’s Safety Centre:  

  1. Download Tinder for iOS or Android, or visit Tinder.com 
  2. You can use your Facebook or Google account to log in to Tinder. Otherwise, click Log in With Phone Number and fill out your details. 
  3. Allow Tinder access to all required permissions  

 Getting Started with Bumble 

Bumble’s point of difference is that only women can start conversations. This has given Bumble a reputation as less ‘hook-up’ focused. For more information visit Bumble’s Help Centre and Bumble’s Safety Centre:  

  1. Download Bumble for iOS or Android, or visit Bumble.com   
  2. You can use your Facebook account to log in to Bumble. Otherwise, click Log In With Phone Number and fill out your details. 
  3. Set a password for your account 
  4. Select Date mode if you are looking for dates. You can also use the Bff setting to look for platonic friends.  
  5. Click Enable Location 

Getting Started with OKCupid 

OKCupid, originally a dating website, allows for in-depth profiles. With full questionnaires you can fill out, it is geared towards people looking for longer-term relationships. For more information visit OKCupid’s Help Centre and OKCupid’s Safety Centre   

  1. Download OKCupid for iOS or Android, or visit okcupid.com  
  2. Enter your email address 
  3. Create a password 
  4. Fill out your details  
  5. Enable location sharing for the app in your General Settings  

 Getting Started with Grindr  

Grindr is a dating app designed for queer and trans communities. Originally for men only, Grindr now has options for women, trans, and non-binary people. For more information visit Grindr’s Help Centre and Grindr’s Safety Centre   

  1. Download Grindr for iOS or Android 
  2. You can use your Google or Facebook account to log into Grinder. Otherwise, click Sign Up in the upper right hand side 
  3. Fill in your details  

REPORT CONCERNING BEHAVIOUR

If you feel uncomfortable with someone it’s okay to ‘un-match’ with them – and if they are behaving suspiciously or being abusive you should report them to the platform immediately and then block them. Suspicious or concerning behaviour could include:

  • being asked for money or donations
  • a child or minor using the platform
  • being sent abusive or offensive messages
  • someone behaving inappropriately after meeting in person
  • fraudulent profiles

Report a profile on Tinder

  1. Go to the person’s profile
  2. Scroll down and tap Report
  3. Follow the on-screen prompts

Report a profile on Bumble

  1. Go to the person’s profile
  2. Scroll down and tap Block and Report
  3. Follow the on-screen prompts

Report a profile on OKCupid

  • Go to the person’s profile
  • Click on the three dots next to the person’s name
  • Click Report
  • Follow the on-screen prompts

Report a profile on Grindr

  1. Go to the person’s profile
  2. Tap on the crossed-out circle icon on upper-right hand side of the screen
  3. Click Report
  4. Follow the on-screen prompts

If you have had an ‘iso hang’ or have any other online safety tips or experiences to share, let us know using the #stayconnectedstaysafe on social media.

Stay connected Stay safe - illustration of New Zealand regions connected

CONTACT NETSAFE

If you’re concerned about the immediate safety of you or someone else, please call 111. If you want help or expert incident advice, you can contact us. Our service is free, non-judgemental and available seven days a week.

KEEP UP TO DATE

Follow us on social media and sign up to our newsletter for alerts, news and tips.  
Facebook   Twitter