Are Dating Chat Rooms Safe?
By Sarah Fader
Updated December 21, 2018
When it comes to meeting people online, you can never be too careful. So to answer the question "are dating chat rooms safe?", the real answer is that they are as safe as you make them. The more information you give out, and the more you lower your guard, the more vulnerable you are to potential dangers. This isn't to say that everyone you meet in a dating chat room is a creep, but it's a smart idea to keep your information closely guarded until you know people better.
Information To Keep To Yourself in a Dating Chat Room
When it comes to revealing information about yourself in dating forums, it is best to keep details about where you live, your school, and your workplace to yourself. Of course, you have to tell them something, so be as general as possible. No addresses, phone numbers, or anything else that is unique to you.
You can divulge the country you live in, but if you have an uncommon name, you may want to keep that quiet, too. In fact, even if you have a common name, you should still keep your full name to yourself. This is because the more you end up revealing about you, the narrower you make other people's searches, common name or not.
You should also make up a screen name that you do not use anywhere else. The reason being, if you use the same screen name as your Twitter or Instagram handle, it doesn't require a lot of digging for someone to be able to connect your Twitter or Instagram account with everything you've mentioned in a dating forum.
It is also a good idea to generalize your interests. For example, instead of telling people in a dating chat that you adore Britney Spears and Mariah Carey, just say you like pop music in general. Or instead of telling them that Sherlock Holmes is your favorite book, just say you like mysteries. You can give them a little without telling them a lot and make it easier for them to use your details against you by finding out more about you online.
Don't Post Photos Of Yourself in the Chat Room
It may be tempting to send people photos, but you should avoid doing this too. It may sound like you can't have any fun online, but in the end, it is better to have a more vanilla experience and to know that you are protecting yourself from harm.
In the past, people have posted photos that, unbeknownst to them, contain details like the street they live on or their license plates. Some attackers can even figure out where you live based on the landmarks on your street, and their proximity to your house. You can never be too careful.
And, it goes without saying that you shouldn't post pictures of you or your friends either. You don't want to bait a potential attacker accidentally and encourage his or her unwanted attention, like stalking, harassing, or intimidation.
How And When To Safely Meet People You've Interacted With Online
Typically, it is best to avoid altogether meeting people you've met in an online forum. While the people you are talking to may have good intentions, those who don't will almost always propose meeting in person at some point.
However, if you have been talking to someone long enough that you feel you have thoroughly vetted them and it is safe to meet them in person, then you should always do so in a public location for your safety. And it should be a place that you are familiar with, like a local coffee shop or mall. You can even meet them in the company of friends, but make sure you stay together as a group, and you don't go off with that person alone.
You should also inform someone, whether it's a relative or a friend that you are going to be meeting this person. This is especially true if you will be meeting the person alone, rather than with friends. Tell the relative or friend to give you a call if they don't hear from you by a certain time, just to make sure you are okay.
Of course, it's not the most romantic thing in the world to go on a date with a friend tagging along, but it is the safest. However, if this sounds like something you don't want to do, and you want to keep your privacy, you can always meet the person across the street from or next to another public place, such as the Starbucks across the street from a McDonald's. That way, your friend can have lunch across the way from you or next to you, you won't be completely alone, and your date will be none the wiser.
This may be a good thing. Because your date doesn't know that you have someone waiting in the wings, s/he will feel freer to be his or her true self, rather than trying to impress your friends. You may learn faster whether the person is truthful if he or she is one-on-one with you.
If, after you meet the person, you feel he or she may be engaging in stalking, harassing, or intimidating behavior, either online or in person, notify the police at once. Your local law enforcement may not have the jurisdiction to intervene, but they may be able to get in contact with those who do. Explain the situation to the police with as many details as necessary, including that you met the person online, and that now you feel threatened by them.
Signs Of Trouble in a Dating Chat Room
How can you know for sure if someone is a threat, or if he or she is playing around? First and foremost, if the person starts talking about sex, or if he or she tries to encourage you to do things like discuss sex online, or to send them naked pictures of yourself, you should stop communicating with that person immediately and block them from being able to communicate with you again in the future.
If you're in a chatroom and someone is acting this way, the fastest and easiest way to protect yourself is to log off simply. Once you disconnect from the chatroom, especially if you've followed the advice above about keeping your details close to the vest, these people can't find you or bother you again. You have effectively closed off all communication permanently.
If the person you are talking to starts to ask you more personal questions, such as your age, hair color, eye color, skin color, etc., this too can be a sign of predatory behavior. You should also see red flags if they ask about your living situation, i.e., "do you live alone?" The best way to avoid being put into one of these situations is to stick to public chatrooms. In a public chatroom, everyone can see what you're doing. Once someone asks to take the discussion to a private chatroom, this may signal danger.
If someone engages in any of the above behavior, you should report them to the moderator of the chatroom and the police. You can also contact the site that hosts the chatroom to give them a heads up as well.
Other Chat Room Tips To Keep You Safe
Sometimes, it's not you that people want to harm, but your computer as well. On that note, don't download any files that are shared with you in a dating forum, or any forum. In addition to viruses and malware, hackers can also download ransomware onto your computer. Ransomware is exactly what it sounds like: hackers will hold your data hostage until you pay them to release it back to you.
It also probably goes without saying that you should never pay to participate in a chat. If you are prompted to pay a fee to continue a chat, abandon the board immediately. In addition to losing your money, you may also be giving someone access to your bank account or credit card in providing the information necessary to make the payment.
Something else to remember when you're meeting someone in person: don't carry cash you, or carry the maximum you would need to pay for, say, the cup of coffee or meal you are going to eat on your date. Don't carry all of your credit cards either. This way, in the event the worst happens, and they try to steal from you, they won't get much. And if they do happen to get your debit or credit card, you can call to cancel the card and report any fraudulent charges.
Also, when meeting people in person, the same truths apply here as they did when you were a child: never get into the car with someone you don't know. And even if you feel more comfortable than you ever have with anyone in the history of ever after meeting that person, you still shouldn't leave yourself with no other option for a ride home. If you don't drive, make sure that a friend or parent can pick you up at a location close to your meeting.
"Safe" Dating Chat Rooms
Of course, there are no "safe" dating chatrooms. It's just like being in the real world. Unscrupulous behavior can occur anywhere. However, if you are interested in participating in a dating chat, you may want to do so through a more reputable website, like OkCupid.com, Match.com, or PlentyofFish.com. This is because these websites do their best to filter out predators or anyone who isn't there for the site, which is to meet new people.
Of course, someone can always slip through the cracks, especially if they're a skilled liar. That's why it is so important to remember that even if you are using a well-known site to meet people, you should still take the utmost precautions to protect yourself, your family and friends, and your data.
Looking for more information on dating chatrooms and how best to protect yourself? Consider contacting one of our licensed counselors, who have considerable knowledge in this area and who are always on hand to give advice.