Following the news that four men were murdered after meeting Stephen Port on Grindr, PinkNews runs through some tips to stay safe on dating apps.
Whether it’s Grindr, Growlr, Her, Hornet, Scruff or Tinder, there’s nothing strange about using a phone app to find dates and sex.
Millions of people use these apps every day, the vast majority without any incident – but as two more men are convicted of murdering people they met on dating apps, the need to be cautious is real.
These are our top tips for dating app safety:
1. If you’re meeting up, get their real name.
“Dom Top” might have got your attention in the app, but the chances they’re really called Dominic are slim. Ask the prospective lover for their identity: get their Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.
2. Ask for their number.
It might be better to speak on the phone before you meet-up – it could help you suss out the sort of person they are. Many people have their real name on WhatsApp, so if you message them on there your notifications should indicate what they’re really called. That way you can look them up.
3. Always get more pics.
If it’s a fake profile then chances are they’ll have a limited number of pictures to pick from. Ask for more pics (of their face) to get a better idea of if they’re real, and if they look how they say they do. Getting their social media profiles will also help with this.
4. Tell a friend what you’re doing.
You don’t need to go all TMI and tell them the exact details of what you plan to get up to, but make sure you’ve told someone where you are. Whether it’s a trusted friend or someone you live with, this means they’ll know how long you’ve been gone and where you are. In the instance that something has gone wrong on the meet-up, someone having this info could be invaluable.
5. Use Find My Friend app.
This allows you to track the location of others on your phone. It might seem a bit stalker-like, but if a trusted friend or flatmate knows exactly where you are then they can help if something goes wrong. They can also see if you’re not where you’re meant to be. Or if you got too drunk and need that special friend to book you a cab home.
6. Agree on your expectations of the meet-up.
This is good in all circumstances. If you agree what you’re meeting up for – whether that’s a date, a hook-up or something more specific – then check you’re on the same wavelength beforehand. If it’s sex, preferably agree what you want to do. That way you’ll know if things start to go differently and should feel more confident to say something before they go awry.
7. Meet somewhere public.
This is easier if you’re going on a date, as you can meet in a bar or restaurant or the cinema. But even if it’s a hook-up, it’s best to meet them outside their building or at a local bus stop or train station. This will help you figure out if they’re like they said they would be, and hopefully give some time to gage what kind of person they are before you get back to their home.
8. Prepare to say no.
When sex is concerned no always means no. With someone you’ve met on an app this should include lots more things too: things like going back to theirs from the bar, staying out drinking, going to a sex venue or simply going to an area you don’t know. You’re under no obligation to do what they want just because you fancied them in an app – if you’re not sure, choose the safest option.
9. Hide your valuables.
If you’re having someone over for a hook-up, hide anything expensive. You don’t know the person or their character, even if your time together has gone well, so don’t leave your iPad or pricey ring out on display. This goes for medication too – people have been known to have sex, then pocket someone’s meds from the bathroom cabinet afterwards.
10. Know your limits.
Don’t keep on drinking just for the sake of your company. Especially if you’re not sure about the person, it’s best to stay on the cautious side. If the person you’ve met up with has bad intentions, they may well try plying you with drink as a means to getting them.
11. Think twice about drugs.
A number of the murders have involved drugs. Clearly drugs alter your perceptions of reality and how you respond to that – they won’t keep you safe on a date or hook-up. If you don’t know how you’ll respond to the drugs, don’t feel sure about the company or don’t feel confident of how to leave the situation, just say no. Maybe recreational drugs are your thing, but it’s a lot better to do them with fiends and people you trust than with a total stranger.
12. Be honest about yourself.
If you expect others to be upfront, you have to do the same about yourself. Once you start compromising facts, you could find yourself in a difficult situation and more vulnerable to something going wrong. Just be honest about what you want from dating apps. Honesty is very attractive, too.
13. If something happens: report it.
Tell the people behind the app you used if someone wasn’t who they said they were, or if they tried to make you do something you didn’t want to. The more people who report fakers and fraudsters, the less chance they can proliferate and harm others. If someone does something illegal, like tries to threaten you or doesn’t take ‘no’ for an answer, then report it to law enforcement. Just because you met in a dating app doesn’t make make an abuse any less real.
14. Think with your brain, not your horn.
Is it really wise to go to shady part of town you don’t know, late at night, just to get laid? When you’re done with the other tips on a hook-up, just ask yourself if you’d take the risk if you weren’t horny. It’s not worth taking the risks in the long run for the sake of fleeting sexual satisfaction. We can all masturbate, and apparently it’s good for the planet.
15. And finally: be calm.
Almost everyone on datings apps is just like you: looking for romance and/or someone to hang out with for a bit. Plenty of people have found love on dating apps – PinkNews CEO Benjamin Cohen is set to marry a guy he met on Grindr.