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Online Dating

Many of us are using online dating sites as a way to meet people and form relationships. 

Most users of these sites are sincere and honest in the information they provide and in their reasons for joining. However, there are exceptions, and you need to be aware of how to keep yourself, your bank account and savings, protected while meeting people online.

Whilst online dating, remember:

Be Anonymous

  • Choose a username that doesn’t let everyone know who you are and back it up with a strong password.
  • Keep your contact details private. Never make available your email address, where you live, or your phone number.
  • Take things slowly and share more information when you feel comfortable doing so. It is impossible to get back information once you have given it away.
  • If it doesn’t feel right or someone is pressuring you into providing your personal or financial information Stop communicating, contact the dating provider immediately to not only protect yourself but other users too.


Password & Security

  • Make sure you log out properly when accessing your account from a public or shared computer so that others can't view or record your password or personal information.
  • Be wary of opening email attachments from someone you have only just met
  • Ensure that you keep your internet security software up to date.


Thinking about meeting up

  • When you feel ready to meet, still remember that you’re meeting a stranger.
  • Do your research – search your date online, make sure they are who they say they are and you are happy with what they have told you
  • Don’t divulge your address or other key personal information. Don’t go into a car alone with this stranger. Always remain in public for the first few dates.
  • Let a friend know who you’re meeting, where you’re meeting, how to reach you and when you’ll be home. Arrange for that friend to call you during the date letting your date that someone knows where you are.
  • Not going well? Make your excuses and leave.


Reporting call to action

 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. To report a rape of sexual offence ring 101.Remember always ring 999 in an emergency.
  • If you feel unable to report it to the police straight away, tell someone you trust. You can speak to your GP or if you are at college or university, welfare staff and the Student Union will be able to offer help and advice.
  • If you have been a victim of crime, whether recently or in the past, Lancashire Victim Services are here to help. They  provide emotional support, information and practical help, regardless of whether you have reported the crime to the police. All their services are free and confidential - call 0300 323 0085.
  • You can also self-refer to the SAFE Centre, a specialist unit at Preston Royal Hospital. They offer counselling, support and help with forensic examinations. They can be contacted on 01772 523 344.

Romance Fraud

Spot the signs

Protect yourself

You’ve struck up a relationship with someone online and they declare their love for you quite quickly. They may even talk of marriage or other relationship milestones such as buying a house together. Many romance fraudsters say they are based abroad so will claim a big step in your relationship will be them returning to the UK to be with you. They will claim to be overseas because they work in the military or medical profession, or they’re carrying out important charity work. This helps them paint a picture of themselves as being heroic, trustworthy and reliable, and also gives them an excuse for the use of international dialling codes or poor internet connection.

Avoid giving away too many personal details when speaking online to someone you’ve never met in person, as it can lead to your identity being stolen. This includes revealing your full name, date of birth and home address - even if you’re doing it for what seems to be harmless reasons, such as your partner wants to send you flowers or a gift.

They constantly make up excuses why they can’t video chat or meet in person and they try and move your conversation off the platform that you met on.

Stay on the site’s messaging service until you meet in person. Criminals want to quickly switch to other platforms that are less regulated and have better encryption, so there’s no evidence of them asking you for money. Whatever reason you’re given to move away from the site where you met, if the other person is genuine, they will accept your decision to stay on the platform until you see each other in person.

When they ask for your financial help, it will be for a time critical emergency. The reason will be something emotive, which pulls at your heartstrings. They’ll open up to you about a problem, or something that is worrying them to appear vulnerable and make you feel sorry for them.  They may get defensive if you decline to help or make you feel guilty and responsible for the urgent emergency they claim you could have averted.

Most online platforms have a reporting tool which you can use if you suspect someone online is using pictures that don’t belong to them, you are suspicious of their behaviour, or they have asked you for money. Reporting their user profile means it can be blocked, which helps protect others.  

They tell you to keep your relationship private and insist that you don’t discuss anything you talk about with your friends and family. This also includes the crisis they find themselves in that requires money. They will convince you this is part of the normal privacy that forms a healthy relationship.

No matter how long you’ve been speaking to someone online and how much you trust them, if you haven’t met them in person do not:

  • send them any money
  • allow them access to your bank account
  • transfer money on their behalf
  • take a loan out for them
  • provide copies of your personal documents such as passports or driving licenses
  • invest your own money on their behalf or on their advice
  • purchase and send the codes on gift cards from Amazon or iTunes
  • Agree to receive and/or send parcels on their behalf (laptops, mobile phones etc.)