Online dating has become very popular in the U.S. as a way for people to fall in love. Websites and cell phone apps such as eHarmony, Tinder, Bumble and over 7,500 others are all ways some people are now attempting to find a soulmate. This $3 billion industry is creating a whole new field for love.

For some, this method of dating is extremely successful. In fact, eHarmony is attributed to the matching up of 4 percent of marriages in the U.S. as of 2018. However, lots of people are not this lucky. Dating sites are also trafficked by many different scammers and predators due to the little background required by dating sites.

This leads to the creation of dozens of fake profiles. According to a study by Holly Marsh of National Cellular Directory, “66 percent of online daters have seen at least one fake dating profile online.” This means that two-thirds of these online daters have seen a scammer or predator in action.

Scammers and predators both use fake profiles to gain the attention of a victim and use these people for their own desires. Some scammers use their victims to commit fraud. These scammers typically tell their victim that they are currently going through a financial crisis and will need money in order to make the relationship work. Other predators have been linked to date-related crimes.

There are reasons online dating could be unsafe at times, but that doesn’t mean everyone needs to delete their accounts — it just means that there are precautions that need to be taken. Everyone needs to make sure they are thinking clearly ahead of a date.

Before even acting on a match, be aware of the possibility of it being a fake profile run by a scammer. Marsh said, “The first indicator of a fake dating profile is the profile picture. If the picture looks too perfect, you can run a reverse image search on Google to see if their profile image was stolen or if it is a stock photo.” From here, if the profile seems to be fake, report or block it. It’s always better to be safe.

It is highly suggested in Marsh’s study to check the background of the person someone may be considering going on a date with. An overwhelming 84 percent of users asked already follow this rule, and 88 percent of those who background check their dates say they feel better about the date after the check.

Once the background check has gone through and if all looks good, there are still a few tried and true techniques that anyone can use to stay safe while out with their date.

It is highly recommended by Marsh, other experts, police and other users that a first meeting is never private. Go to a public place that is known to have a few crowds such as a bar or coffee shop. This ensures that there will always be someone else around, so there is never an opportunity for an attack to occur.

Make sure trusted people know the details of the date including location and time. It seems like a simple thing to do, but this is what many like to call a safety net. If the date turns into an uncomfortable or unsafe situation, someone will be able to contact you or can get help if necessary.

Taking it one step further, it may be a good idea to have a set code for texting with a trusted person to make sure that the individual on the other end is who it’s supposed to be. This could be anything from a question that only the owner of the phone would know the answer to or a random set of words with a predetermined set of random words for a response.

Online dating is a continuously growing industry. It is predicted that by 2040, 70 percent of people will have met their significant other online. Online dating is nothing to run away from; many people have had good experiences with the industry. According to a 2018 survey, 34 percent of users on dating apps or websites reported a neutral experience, 24 percent stated a somewhat positive experience, and only 7 percent expressed very negative experiences while using a dating app. Online dating has been known to set up some uncomfortable conditions, but as Marsh said, “It’s also crucial for me to point out that dating websites have been proven to be a successful way to meet people. If you play it safe and follow the basic safety rules that I’ve already mentioned, you will more than likely have a positive online dating experience.”