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Why You Should Use a Burner Phone with Online Dating & Other Cyber Safety Dating Tips

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Online dating can be a bit of a drag. There’s the waiting for replies, answering the same questions over and over, and screening out duds. But it can evolve into a real nightmare if you don’t take proper precautions.

While many people dating online are just looking for love, there are plenty of safety concerns. You may be able to screen out some creeps and threats to your physical safety, but catfishers, stalkers, grifters, and cybercriminals can all be lurking online. Dating is hard enough without having to worry about jeopardizing your safety as well.

Dating scams and why you should worry about them

Like with anything online, there’s the risk of scams with online dating. We all worry about meeting someone with a Fatal Attraction. But some people can do a lot of damage before we even meet them.

The popular Netflix series You shows just how scary and enterprising stalkers can be. Things have shifted in our digital age and there’s so much information online that even we don’t know. Stalkers can do a lot with access to your social media or just your phone number. 

Besides stalking, there’s plenty of online dating scams to concern yourself with. Someone could be trying to turn your Bumble chats into a way to make some extra cash. This advice is in no way meant to make dating more difficult or depressing —it’s just to highlight precautions you can take to protect yourself from online threats. Using a burner phone for your online dating accounts or to talk with potential dates is a good way to stay safe.

Here are a few other tips to consider so you don’t end up drowning in the online dating pool.

1. Use a burner phone

A burner phone may seem a bit excessive. After all, they have the rep of being used by drug dealers, criminals, or people in witness protection. And yet, a burner phone just might be a secret weapon in not just safety but in better screening potential dates. One issue with online dating is anonymity.  Someone can send fake photos or become problematic with boundaries because they can hide behind a false identity.

A burner phone allows you to talk to and text with someone before things get too serious. Sometimes you can only get a vibe from someone until after you’ve spoken with them. And you may want to confirm they are who they say they are but you shouldn’t have to give them your phone number to do so. If you’ve given your number to a creep it can be too late. Once they have access to your phone number they might abuse that privilege. They can send annoying texts, creepy late-night calls, or even use your number to dive deeper into your life. 

Why use a burner phone? 

Using a burner phone can spare you a ton of sketchy texts and phone calls if things don’t work out. According to a 2020 study, 60% of women ages 18 to 34 say that men on dating sites and apps continued to contact them after they said they were not interested. Fifty-seven percent reported being sent sexually explicit messages or images they didn’t ask for. A burner phone gives you a boundary that can protect you from guys you can’t shake off. 

Can your phone number lead to your address?

A burner phone is a great way to set up added protection from creepers, stalkers, and guys/girls who just don’t get the hint. You don’t just want to jump into meeting in person, right? You wouldn’t give someone your address. But with your phone number, an enterprising creeper can reverse look-up your address from your phone number. USA TODAY columnist Steven Petrow had a guy he met on a dating app show up at his house. It’s simple enough to locate someone by paying for a premium account to White Pages. 

Using your phone number to locate online accounts can give them more access than you know. Eric Silverberg, the CEO of the gay dating app Scruff, says, “If you switch [from an app] to text messaging, there’s no community support to protect you and it’s going to be much harder for you to get help if there’s ever some kind of issue.” 

A burner phone is a buffer zone

A burner phone gives you a much-needed buffer. There’s a lot that we forget is tied to our phone numbers. It’s easy to take for granted what you share online without knowing. With your phone number, it’s suddenly easy to locate you physically, virtually, and across multiple accounts. Not to mention it’s instant access to you given your GPS location.

What do you use your phone number for online?

We often need to sync up dating accounts with our social media accounts to confirm our identity. A burner phone can give you the added benefit of not having dating apps synced to your phone number. This can help protect you from the many ways apps track you. After all, the last thing you want is to be inundated with ads for dinner-for-one or dating site upgrades.

A burner phone can also protect you from ad trackers. And by having a burner phone just for your online dating, you have the bonus of keeping your online dating in a place where you get to decide when you are or are not in the mood to talk to potential suitors. 

If you don’t want to invest in a burner phone, you can also create a second phone number. You can do so using Google Voice or burner apps. This may limit your ability to only calling and texting. This option may be only slightly more convenient as it can cost more. A burner phone can let you have a designated device and phone number strictly for dating.

2. Use a fake email address

This may not seem like a given but your email address is as personal as your phone number. You’ll want to protect it. Like your phone number, your email address can be tied to countless accounts which can give a stalker an idea of places you hang out, where you check in on social media, and more. Using a fake or duplicate email address creates a barrier between your real-life and your dating life. 

All of this “hiding” may seem counter to trying to form a meaningful relationship. And yet, you’re not going to go on an in-person date with each person you match with on an app or website. And yet, if you want to get to know them a little better it might take a phone call, email, or chat to see how they operate. And many people with toxic behaviors or negative intentions obviously will not lead with that energy. So creating a barrier gives you that extra space to get to know them while maintaining some security.

This is a given. You’ll want to confirm the person you’re talking to is not using a stock photo or the image of someone else. It’s easy to pull a few photos from social media sites to create fake profiles. Sometimes the only way to confirm someone is who they say they are is with a video chat or to ask them to snap a specific photo. Do not hesitate to ask for confirmation that the person you’re talking to is who they say they are. 

It’s also easy enough to do a reverse image search by putting the photo in Google and seeing where else it pops up. This is a common tactic used on the TV series Catfish and for good reason. Catfishers are committed to getting in your head. This is also a good way to screen out people who might be lying about their name or marital status because they’re looking to turn you into their side piece. 

4. Don’t be afraid to Google stalk 

You can never be too paranoid. It may be worthwhile to try and do a little sleuthing of your own. You don’t want to be a creep about it but it can be helpful to do a cursory search for more information about someone before you meet. After all, a little lie can go unnoticed. Plus, by doing a search of potential partners you can see just how easily someone can search out your personal details. 

5. Limit what you share

Now, while dating we don’t often lead with our worst qualities or share our family traumas. But with dating online, you may want to be cautious about what you share. If you share where you work, you may not be able to control if this person can track you down. If you were to ever share financial information you could get easily scammed. There are many online dating scams that cybercriminals use to take advantage of people just looking for love. 

If you want to learn more about online dating scams, listen to some of our Easy Prey podcast episodes on the subject:

Date online safely

By managing what information you share, you don’t just control the narrative you also keep them from gaining access to anything you don’t want them to. With your first name and where you work someone could make an impromptu appearance at your office or locate you from your company website. 

Burner phones and secret accounts can seem like a lot. But dating online can require you to be vigilant about your safety. It can seem counter to attempts to form a meaningful connection. But anyone interested in a serious relationship with you should respect your need to be safe.

With online dating, there’s the app and the real world. There’s no midway place unless you create one. Hopefully these tips help you eliminate negative experiences before you find your right match.   

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