Tips for safe online dating

You can do anything online these days, you can even find love. Across the world, 91 million people look for love, and for 18-24 year olds, the use of online dating has nearly trebled between 2013 and 2016.

Looking for love online

And the success stories are there: One in five relationships start online, and 44% of online daters either find a long-term relationship or marriage.

But there are always risks. With these new opportunities comes a dark side.

In our new series, Swipe Right For Murder, we delve into the world of online dating, the risks that can occur, and the cases where it all went wrong.

But to help you out, we've compiled a few tips to help keep you safe when you're looking for someone special online.

Whether you're new to online dating or just want to stay savvy - here are a few tips everyone should know.

Protect Yourself

When signing up to online dating, choose a username that doesn't reveal who you are. Try not to include your surname or any information that could link you to your personal life when you first get in touch.

Know Who You're Talking To

Don't add someone you've met online to your Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat contacts. It's best to stay in control when it comes to how much information a person can know about you. It's impossible to get information back once you have given it away, so keeping your Facebook profile private, and keeping all communication with a potential date to your online dating profile will help keep things safe.

If you do want to start talking to someone, think about setting up a separate email address or keeping you Facebook profile settings to private until you get to know them better.

Stop communicating with anyone to attempts to pressure you into sharing your private details or financial information.

Take Your Time

Take your time when getting to know someone. Always act with caution and learn more about someone before taking any further steps.

Sometimes you can be excited to talk to someone, and have strong feelings for a person right away. But you don't need to share your life-story the first time you talk to someone. There is always plenty of time to share your stories and details about yourself if your relationship develops.

Check on Them

Before you go out on your first date, it's best to gather a bit of information about your date. Dating sites have a limit on background checks and verify information, and they can't check a person's criminal records; so it's best to look if you can.

See if the person has another profile online. Check other social networking sites, do a web search of them, or even a Google image search. The advantage of living online is that you'll probably be able to verify a person's identity before you even meet them!

Make sure you have some contact details about your date, beyond their online user name. Even if it's their phone number and email address, it's best to have another form of contact.

Meeting Face to Face

The safest plan is to meet in a public space. Even if you feel you have become close to someone via email or messages, you should still remember that this person is a stranger.

Dates are traditionally events that happen after dark, but have you thought of a day date? Meet for brunch, an activity through the day, or a quick lunch. It's the easiest getaway if you have other plans for the day.

Make your own way to and from the date - that way you are in control of when you leave.

Is it not going well? Make an excuse and leave. Remember, there is always Ask For Angela - the code-word campaign for you when you feel unsafe on a date. Simply ask for Angela at the bar and they will help get you out the situation, call you a taxi, or help you discreetly.

Tell a friend what you're up to...or three

Tell a friend, or more, about your date. Let them know who it is, where you're planning to go and how you're feeling. It's best if there is someone out there who's got your back should you need it.