How to help a friend date safe online
Dating services work hard to prevent anyone coming onto a service for any improper reason, and that is especially true of fake profiles posted by someone seeking to charm but then defraud. This is a challenge across the internet; on social media and elsewhere.
We think the support of family and friends can make all the difference; increasing the chances of a good experience online and driving down risk to their nearest and dearest. That works best if the support and encouragement is there throughout. Being there, being non-judgemental and being able to offer any necessary words of caution or warning can make all the difference, particularly if you sense change in a family member or friend and worry they may be a target of a fraudster. Here’s our advice to you:
Help and encourage – with setting up a profile and setting boundaries on what to share. Remind them that this is a person online – someone they’ve not met in person. Suggest that if this a deep caring relationship then at minimum they should have a live video call until it is safe to meet in person. Point to the safety in using a dating service’s messaging platform and ask, perhaps, whether there is something strange in being encouraged to leave it.
Reality check – remind this is an online start to a possible relationship. Provide your friend/relative with ways they can discover the reality of the relationship themselves. You can guide them to use reverse image searches, and to research online the person they are messaging.
Listen. Ask: don’t just “tell” – show patience and do not be judgemental. Criticising or suggesting they are being foolish can re-bound, driving them into the embrace of a fraudster who will be warning of just this sort of uncaring misunderstanding of the relationship.
Encourage reflection and patience – help “keep it real”. Meeting online and in person are different! If they are being asked to keep the relationship secret, why? Perhaps, ask you friend/relative what advice they would offer you if the tables were turned and you were in their position.
Keep talking – keep the interest, talk and support going. Help them understand what they can do to end online contact if its worrisome. And speak frankly if you need to about never ever sending money to someone you have never met in real life.
Take time out – suggest your friend takes a little time away from messaging to reflect on how fast things are moving. Anyone serious about an online relationship would understand and be patient. Someone who presses for contact, makes the other party feel guilty, or offers more and more dramatic stories relating to their personal situation and need for money will be showing their true colours!
Report – any requests for money should be reported to the dating service. If money has been handed over then it should be reported to Action Fraud.