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Online dating dangers: What you need to know

I thought this is it, this is the end

Our anonymous case study who was physically assaulted by a man she met through a dating app

A Good Morning Britain investigation has revealed one in ten women have felt physically or verbally attacked after meeting someone online, with one in four receiving explicit messages within three minutes of chatting.

Ninety-eight percent of women told us they'd always organise a first date in public, to stay safe. But in a fifth of cases, they changed their mind and they met at someone's home instead. In a third of the cases the women said they'd gone back to a private home after a first date.

Any act of violence or abuse should be reported to your local police. If you have been the victim of a sexual assault and do not want to contact the police directly, it’s strongly recommended you contact the Rape Crisis helpline on 0808 802 9999 or find your nearest specialist support centre by going to www.rapecrisis.org.uk.

PROFILE WARNING SIGNS

Very little information:

If a profile has little information aside from a name and home city, then they may either be (a) very secretive or (b) they’ve got a lot to hide. Some may not put too much on their profiles because they’re being cautious, but if they continue putting off sharing information or images, it’s probably best to move on.

Emotional profiling:

What little information he has is there to create maximum emotional impact and give a misleading representation of who you’re speaking with. They may be recently divorced or have a sick relative (sympathy), a Christian (trust/honesty), a model (beautiful photographs).

Suspicious pictures:

Few or no pictures, oddly cropped pictures, blurry photos. If a person can’t immediately send you pictures of themselves in this day and age, then you should proceed with caution. Also if pictures are edited oddly, they may be stolen from someone else - or be disguising a hidden truth. You should require them to show you some proof of who they are. Sometimes a google image check of the profile picture might help. Army officers, pilots and models can be typical scammer photos.

Lack of online presence:

If a person’s doesn’t have a Facebook / Twitter profile etc or does and has fewer than 100 friends, and more specifically, if there are photos of the person with other people but the other people aren’t tagged, be cautious. These may be pictures taken off an unsuspecting person’s profile and could be a sign it’s fake. Most people have some online presence you should be able to find knowing their full name and profession.

RED FLAGS IN CONVERSATION

Impersonal:

When first making contact, they sound like they’re sending a formal letter. Some online predators have a standard first message they send to every single person they find even mildly attractive. Someone who truly wants to get to know you will take the time to write a personalised message responding to specific items in your profile, not send a generic cut-and-paste letter saying, “Hey, I saw your profile and was intrigued …” Hundreds of people may have been sent the same message.

Online flirting or sexually explicit messages:

At some point in the conversation they go from complimenting you on your looks to sexual comments. Communications of a sexual nature prior to the first meeting in person were reported in more than half of cases of serious sexual offences linked to online dating websites and apps (NCA). Some people will even declare love very quickly if they sense vulnerability in a victim. Never share explicit images with anyone.

Contact away from the website / app:

They want to take the conversation away from the dating website or app and ask for your email, facebook or private phone number. There is a reason they wish for you to contact them directly and not use chat via the dating site. You are using a dating site to protect your privacy and stay as safe as possible in the early days of a relationship. Don’t give away your private contact information before taking time to get to know someone online. Be sure you are comfortable and like the person before passing on private information.

Pushed into meeting:

Being coerced / persuaded to meet sooner than you would like. (NCA) says 43% of first face-to-face meetings between offenders and victims who reported being sexually assaulted took place within one week of the initial contact being made online.

Don't spend time in private on the first meeting:

Don't arrange to spend time in private on first meeting. (NCA) says 71% of rapes that occurred on the first face-to-face meeting following online contact were committed at the victim’s or offender’s residence.

ONLINE DATING ADVICE

Take your time:

Sometimes when you're excited about someone, your instincts can be confused by strong feelings. You don’t need to give out your life-story the first time you chat – and you shouldn’t. Get to know your date before meeting face to face.

Do your research:

There is a limit to an online dating provider’s ability to verify users and the information they provide. Find out as much as you can about your date, get their full name and occupation. Check to see if the person you're interested in is on other social networking sites like Facebook, do a web search to see if there are other records of the person online, and if possible use google image search to check the profile photos. It’s always a good idea to talk on the phone before meeting face to face.

Make a plan and meet in public:

If you progress to wanting to meet face to face, the safest way is to make a plan that includes the location, timing, duration of the date and transportation. Meet somewhere public and stay somewhere public. Make your own way there and back and don’t feel pressured to go home with your date. Tell someone where you’re going. If you feel ready to move to a private environment, make sure your expectations match your date’s. Limit your alcohol intake, you want to be in control and don’t want your judgement clouded.

Trust your instincts:

Don’t stay on a date if things get weird and you’re not keen. You don’t owe the other person anything, no matter how long you’ve been chatting or what’s been suggested.

If you’re raped or sexually assaulted on your date:

Help is available. No matter what the circumstances, sexual activity against your will is a crime. Police and charities are here to help and support you. Always tell the police so they can take necessary action. If you don’t feel comfortable contacting the police, a local Sexual Assault Referral Centre can be found online, or you can contact ‘’Rape Crisis’’ or the Suzy Lamplugh Trust.

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