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When you join dating services, you run the risk of getting catfished, but there are a few ways to keep your heart and identity safe.

catflished
Dating apps are increasing in use and so is the danger of getting catfished when you use them (Image via Slash Gear)

Valentine’s Day, the holiday of hugs and kisses, is right around the corner. There are not only numerous tempting discounts on chocolate in the markets, but there are also a handful of couples cuddling and holding hands in restaurants; some are even making out in the park, but all you feel is alone, wondering “Where is my love story?”

This loneliness amplifies, and thus you reach for your phone and look up a few dating sites. Hoping to find a counterpart or partner in crime, you sign up and upload the very few sexy photos of yourself because you know how shallow people are when it comes to apps but go through with it anyway. Soon, you see the eye-candy surfacing and either read their bio to strike a conversation or come up with a quirky joke to catch their attention.

Bing! Someone messages you, and you both hit it off very well — too well. They suggest meeting up and you agree without any hesitation. Feeling butterflies, as if you’re on top of the world, you believe that you have found the one. However, is this all too soon? Is there truly a connection?

When it comes to online dating, there are some precautions that I advise others to take, especially before meeting up. The most important is to verify the person’s identity, and I don’t mean asking them for their social security number or driver’s license.

If you are unsure, there are a couple of ways of doing this.

Video-chat on Skype   

By using Skype, you can immediately determine if they are who they claim they are. Aside from that, if they make excuses about not finding the time or try to ridicule you for being “too eager,” “paranoid” or even “sensitive,” drop them like it’s hot since there is no harm in briefly video-chatting.

At the same time, this says a lot more about their character rather than yours. Therefore, don’t feel bad when it comes to this since your safety is more important.

Google the person

Try looking for the person’s social media accounts such as their Facebook profile or Instagram page. Ideally, if you find their Twitter page, you can possibly verify the information they have been telling you.

As weird as this may sound, I would also suggest messaging them through one of the different social media profiles you find. Using this method can confirm their identity and possibility initiate an actual relationship with them.

Although these methods may seem unnecessary at first glance, it is to ensure your safety. Even if you’re not planning to meet up anytime soon, it is best to verify their identity within the early stages of the relationship rather than finding out that you have been catfished.

Not only do you feel like a fool once you realize they have toyed with your heart, but you may have also put yourself in danger of having pictures and information you’ve shared distributed or misused. There are also a few things that aren’t as effective as they sound.

Having conversations on the phone

This method may seem like good option, but talking on the phone can have some dangerous repercussions. For example, someone could either track your location or identify your address with your number. Also, the person you think you are reaching could use a fake voice.

Exchanging selfies

While you’re sending your selfies, the other person could possibly be using someone else’s photos. By doing this, you are simply sending your photos to a stranger who may potentially use your photos to construct another false identity, consequently putting others in grave danger; whether it would be toying with people’s hearts or meeting up to kidnap.

For instance, I once naively exchanged my Google Voice number with a potential match on PlentyOfFish.com (sigh, a bad move already). She and I had texted each other a couple of times and eventually mutually stopped talking to one another due to our busy schedules. However, several months later, she texted me again, and we reconnected.

Talking to one another almost every day, we were virtually joined at the hip. When she had asked me to exchange selfies with her, I went through with it, believing that it was a harmless trade until I hadn’t heard from her a few days.

Suspicious of our sudden romance and her character, I started searching her name on Google. I found several of her social media handles and noticed the photos she shared with me were previously posted on a Facebook page a couple of years ago — even the ones she said she recently took were posted a while back.

Immediately a chill ran down my spine as I did not want to believe that I had been deceived. Drowning in paranoia, I messaged her on Instagram and found out that I had been talking to a stranger.

Although I did not know their name, I had shared my photos with someone potentially dangerous. Filled with fear and the idea of every profile being fake, I avoided dating apps. A month after the incident, my friend, an OkCupid dating user, showed me a profile that contained my photos.

Thinking I could go to the authorities, I quickly browsed through Google and discovered that getting catfished is surprisingly legal. Shutting my eyes in dismay, I felt utterly hopeless but came up with the idea of contacting the coordinator of the dating app. Eventually, they took down the fake profile after I made a profile to alert other users about possible catfish that could be using my photos.

Meeting in person

When seeing each other for the first time, it is best to meet up at a café, restaurant or even the mall and not somewhere secluded. Since you have never met this person, you don’t know what they can do to you.

Ultimately, whether it be Valentine’s Day — or the day you see almost all your friends engaged — you start believing that you’re missing out by not having a significant other and feel obligated to find one. However, it’s okay to be single.

Unfortunately, going on dating apps may become one of the first stops on the journey of self-love, but remember always to take these precautions because it’s better to be safe than catfished.

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