Be a good friend to an online dater
Given that dating apps and services account for around 30% of new relationships, we all know someone who is online dating right now. Since the start of the pandemic, dating services have seen more people using online dating to meet new partners and friends and to combat the loneliness that lockdown can bring, and it is often the view now that if you are seeking a new relationship you are missing out if you don’t “get online”.
That does not mean starting out online is natural or easy for everyone. We can all use a little help and the support, advice etc that they might get from friends and family when someone does decide to try a dating app or service for the first time, and later too, will help with any uncertainties, or ups and downs they might experience.
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.
Dr Elisabeth Carter, Senior Lecturer in Criminology and Forensic Linguist, University of Roehampton and an expert in preventing fraud says:
"Romance fraudsters exploit any opportunity to get close to their target victims and groom them into believing they are in a loving and trusting relationship, before using that love and trust to defraud them of their money. Friends and family are a key tool in supporting victims in recognising they are in a fraudulent relationship and in helping them to break free from its clutches."
Members of the Online Dating Association (ODA) work hard to keep fraudsters off services and make sure daters are aware of what to do if approached for money.
George Kidd, Chief Executive, ODA says :
"When someone does decide to try a dating app or service sometimes for the first time, the support and advice they get can make a huge difference in terms of starting out sensibly and safely. That is why the Online Dating Association (ODA) wants to encourage friends and family to play a role in helping others make the right choices and stay safe online. Anyone trying to use a social media or dating service to con money out of others will want to get them away from those who are their nearest and dearest…friends and family who might be able to see risk and offer words of caution as well as ones of encouragement."
For more information: [email protected]
The ODA was founded in 2013 when a group of leading dating services decided to create a body that would allow the sector to work together on standards and speak as one voice with regulators, law enforcement agencies and others.
ODA members and services operate across Europe, the US, the Far East and elsewhere.
Our tips on having fun and staying safe while online dating can be found here: https://www.onlinedatingassociation.org.uk/date-safe/top-safety-tips.html