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From The Dark Side of Online Dating—To The Safe Way To Date Online!

Plus Bonus Tips For Online Dating For Women Over 35

From The Dark Side of Online Dating—To The Safe Way To Date Online!

Plus Tips For Online Dating For Women Over 35!

These practical tips can save you heartache, inconvenience and affronts to your personal safety and security if followed when browsing online profiles. These tips include suggestions for managing your online life and staying safe from predators. While the blog post 67 Hacks, is a much more comprehensive list on all things online and safety, this piece attempts to specifically address online dating and the safe practices you should adopt but I do borrow liberally from that work.


This blog post was mostly inspired by the programming Dirty John, a cable original on Bravo my wife asked me to watch with her during the Christmas holiday.

The shows premise was about a career criminal who met this vulnerable 3 time married, successful business woman, online. He courted her online—unbeknownst to her from his prison cell lured her in, doted on her and married her after only 6 weeks of knowing her. He proceeded to fleece her bank accounts, install cameras in her home and business and control every facet of her life.


There were plenty of red flags, but she wanted this relationship so badly she ignored her children’s warnings. She glossed over the obvious red flags and as it all began to unravel, she was forced to take drastic actions to protect herself and family.


Two episodes in, the themes jumped out at me concerning cyber, social media sharing security, misuse of technology, and what not to do when online dating. And I couldn’t write fast enough to keep up with my thoughts on the subjects!

That show gave me a visceral reaction. I knew this was a story based on true events- and I felt compelled to warn about online behaviors that could be dangerous or even deadly! As a business Pew Pew Guru, whose mission is to enable women not to be victims, could not sit on the sidelines on this topic.

The lesson—take inspiration from where it comes! And so I began my research. Several authorities on the subject had put out lots of good articles and guides and I attempted to pull a lot of it together where possible to combine it with some of the common sense approaches and offer a more complete road map on how to navigate online dating safely.

The article that troubled me the most when researching was from the Truthfinder, titled, Is Your Online Dating Deadly?

They start out the article with some alarming facts:


  • 10% of sex offenders use online dating
  • 51% of online daters are already in a relationship
  • 10% of members on online dating websites are scammers
  • Since 1995, 400 people have been murdered by someone they met online

From the article FBI profiler Mary Ellen O’Toole advises online daters pay attention to the wording used in the profile. Some of the red flags she list are:


  • Lots of I or ME statements
  • She stresses to steer clear of anyone who says they don’t want any drama and they’re not a game player
  • Watch out for small or blurry photos
  • Stay away from possessive language, i.e., I need or I won’t tolerate…she also cautions against frequent use of can’t, won’t, or don’t that can be an indication of a negative attitude.
  • Radio silence, we’ve seen this one from a few sources
  • Asking for money- no matter how good the sob story
  • Craigslist should never be used for online dating
  • Tone down that sexy profile pic or profile
  • Don’t use sites that are commonly known for one night stands- you have a higher chance of running into an unsavory type and higher than average STD rates
  • Watch how he treats the wait staff since this can be a tell-tell sign. Psychopaths tend to be on their best behavior with those they are trying to impress, but with wait and bar staff they tend to be obnoxious, condescending and plain ol’ rude. Dear John’s character was spot on with this charming, chivalrous act, then he could seamlessly switch to the rudest, most disrespectful person with anger flashes depending on whom he was dealing.
  • Run a background check. You may think this is extreme for a casual dating arrangement, but the cost of a background check could pay for itself in not having the aggravation, time wasted, or money loss being scammed or being victimized. If the woman’s character in Dear John had done the background check, she would have known he was actually in prison when they started the world-wind romance. The story line revealed that the first date was actually the day he was released from prison. She later discovered that he was a convicted felon with multiple restraining orders and stalking charges in his history.


  • That background check would reveal:
    • Who he lives with
    • Driving related offenses
    • Arrest records
    • It would verify age and identity


  • Don’t let your date pick you up from home or your job or any place you frequent. Again another big mistake the character made. Her first contact with Jon, was at her apartment’s door


Zoosk lists 10 trouble indicators. The first one listed is a person who seems to exaggerate the truth. I agree with them. A date that takes you to expensive dinners and showers you with gifts, should pique your radar. It’s not always a big red flag but this should fall into the category of the over the top guy. It should make you wonder when the real guy is going to show up. They also mention the guy that promises the world, and delivers nothing. Another big one is the guy who never plans ahead. Spontaneity is another red flag, especially if it’s all the time. They say, spontaneity is really fun and exciting, but eventually you have to ask yourself why he can’t plan ahead.

 Next they profile the really selfish guy. The guy who has to pick the restaurant, the movie, makes strong suggestions as to what you should order, could be an indication of a control freak.  Another doozy of a red flag is the guy who doesn’t want you to meet his friends, family or coworkers.  Both were transgressions made by Jon Meehan, played by Eric Bana,  in his early pursuits of Debra Newell played by Connie Britton in the series Dirty Jon.

The earlier article I referred to 67 hacks for online safety lists several tips that I think are very relevant to online dating and I would be remiss if I didn’t list some of them here:


Keep Personal Information Limited. This is very important to online security. The less information of a personal nature out on the worldwide web the better. This seems obvious, but many people list detailed personal info— with backstories to boot.  The rule of thumb is if you don’t want the complete stranger on the street knowing the information, you don’t want to share it on the internet.  


Be careful who you meet online- How to Safely Meet a Person You Met Online shares 5 tips:


  1. Keep personal info off of your profile- maintain your anonymity
  2. Check your privacy settings- control who can see what…
  3. Look into their backgrounds- even if it means paying for background checks, the cost is minuscule in the grand scheme of things. I recommend this before meeting in person.
  4. Avoid giving away personal information- keep birthdays, and year of birth to yourself. In the early stages addresses and places of employment are off limits.
  5. Take it slow- keep your emotions in check. Check yourself regularly to make sure you are not getting ahead of yourself. Pace is everything. World-wind romances are not your friend here.
  6. Trust your instincts- if it’s too good to be true—it usually is.


Meet in public places when first dating online – 5 date minimum!!!!!!!!!! Not 2 really hot dates. Not 4 really amazing dates….. FIVE DATES! Repeat after me, 5 dates!

Only meet when you feel completely comfortable- enough said?! Be wary of people who pressure!


Know how to report abuse or block anyone who bothers you online.


Be careful with sharing intimate photos—sextation and revenge porn are real. Basically sextation is using text messages with sexually explicit content or photos to blackmail. Revenge porn is placing explicit images or content on websites without your knowledge. Be careful what you share with people you are dating.

Learn to read between the lines. The dating gurus at Relationship Development list Red Flags in Online Dating: Reading Between The Lines shares the following:




Complaining or negative

Doesn’t respect women

Does he try too hard to overly impress you

Does he boast or brag

Is he a self-absorbed narcissist?

Is he vague about himself or past

Are there unexplained gaps where he is not available (nights, holidays)

Does he talk about financial problems?

Misspellings, typos, bad punctuations and heinous grammar in written communications

They suggest you run like the win, if you see these things!!!!

Pay attention to what is not said. The Keller Institute likens it to studying a mime’s movements. Watch for subconscious noises and movements. In Poker these are called tells. In business it is known as an advantage. In influence, it is known as a smart observation. Just be watching and aware of body language.

Be very weary of the perfect person. See above. If it is too good to be true- it is! There is no such animal as the perfect person. Yes I have said this several times, this is my veiled attempt at trying to drive home the point!

With online dating avoid sites that let anyone message you- There is no screening…you cannot rely on the sites screening but it’s a baseline to start from.

Pay attention to geography settings in dating apps. This is important. You don’t want to be giving away your location, your address, work place or where you socialize and places you are a regular at. If things go sour and you find you have a stalker, they will accidentally be bumping into you a lot. It is difficult to uproot and change your job, home, etc.


Use a unique photo for your online dating profile—never use one from your Facebook, Instagram accounts because they can be reverse image searched. SUPER TIP!!!!!

Avoid too much personal detail on your dating profiles. You want the ability to go ghost if things go south. Giving clues to your favorite hangouts and place of employment hamper that ability if you attract a stalker.

Set up a Google Voice Phone number just for dating. This affords you some anonymity and if things go south you don’t have to change your numbers.

Talk with mutual friends to vet if the app shows who your mutual friends are.

Don’t share where you work or live too soon. Anonymity is your friend until you are sure you aren’t dealing with a psycho.

When online dating always arrange your own transportation. This goes hand in hand with keeping your privacy for as long as possible. Sometimes red flags take a little longer to surface. Earlier I suggested 5 dates in public places- you should drive to each yourself. Being picked up for a date should only be done well into the dating.


Consider carrying a self defense tool when meeting an online prospect. I strongly suggest this. I suggest a whistle, a personal alarm and a weapon. See my post on best personal protection gifts.



Minimize location sharing- The Good and Bad of Location Sharing from the folks at Connect Safety. The good- Apples iOS 12 will automatically and securely share your location data with 911 callers and first responders. Location sharing to emergency personnel can save lives!


It’s also a great tool for spouses and children traveling. Find my phone is a good one. But that’s pretty much it! The rest is all bad….stalkers, and people who track without the person’s knowledge are just creepy!

Now that I’ve scared the daylights out of you, I want to give you some kickass tips for women over 35. (But any women dating online can use)


Use really good photos. The article in Huffington Post suggest that you don’t use outdated photos,  caution against using snapchap filtered pics, pictures with too much retouching and those trendy duck lipped photos they really want you to stay away from.

They want you to use traditional dating sites. They advise using Match.com, Cupid.com for example and leaving sites like Tinder and Bumble to the younger set looking for hookups. Those sites can be fun but aren’t designed to produce long term relationships but rather casual short term “arrangements”. There is nothing wrong with those but just know they rarely lead to long term committed relationships because that is not the objective.

Francesca Hogi the relationship expert and dating coach suggests that women should be bold and make the first move! She says women are 35% more successful when they make the first move, and she says it doesn’t matter which site, if its Tinder or Match. As a man, I know an assertive confident woman gets bonus points by making the first move. She has pretty good logic behind this approach, you weed out the undesirables, you take control from the beginning, and you will stand out.


Francesca suggest going younger. She says, forget the old social norms that dictated a woman date a man her age or older.

 “A 40-year-old woman will have better luck messaging a 25-year-old man (60% reply rate) than she would a 55-year-old one (36% reply rate).”

She issues this challenge – pick your age range, and then lower it by 5 years and see what happens!

This goes counter to my advice and most other what not to do articles but she urges moving offline quickly. I stand by my 5 date rule, but Francesca says after a few back and forth getting to know you emails, propose to meetup face to face.

This was an interesting nugget she gives. She encourages women to raise their standards. But not in ways that most people would think. She says in being more selective in terms of character and intention.

“Be open to a man who might not be your usual physical type, but treats you with respect and enthusiasm and consistency, that’s raising your standards.”

I thought this was really sound advice, a lot of women will miss out on a really good guy because he’s not the prototypical tall, dark and handsome guy of their dreams.

She suggests being a detective, but not how I thought she was saying. What she’s suggesting is more of an analyst than a detective. She wants you guys to analyze what works and doesn’t work on your profiles, an letting your profile evolve. Pay attention to what photos get the most likes and comments and make that your main profile picture, she advises. I totally thought she was going to talk about stealth covert investigative skills, but she went in a totally different direction. Instead she challenges women, by asking if they are sending out enough messages, if they are only sending messages to their near perfect profiles…she effectively challenges the conventional wisdom that women should be the pursued and not the pursuer. Francesca asks the hard questions like what happens when you give the guy who isn’t necessarily the “looker”, without the best profile picture but talks passionately about finding love— a chance?




She closes with admitting that online dating can be daunting but reassures her audience that the more work they put into getting a great profile and using the right strategy, the more rewarding it will be. I really applaud her unorthodox approach.

So to recap, first and foremost be safe, use common sense, and proceed with caution. Then throw everything you thought you knew and the societal norms out the window and be the pursuer. Go younger. And kiss the frog with potential.

In conclusion

I think it is more important to exercise simple safety precautions to traverse the hazards of online dating safely.  If you implement the suggestions from my post on all things online safety that I listed snippets of above and you use on advice from the experts, you will have armed yourself with skills to navigate these tricky waters of online dating. I know personally this can end with a happy ending, I met my wife online and we are celebrating 17 years of marriage. I urge you to employ these tools and wish you the best of luck in finding Mr. Right, and hopefully these tactics will help you avoid Mr. Wrong or Mr. Right-now.



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