Six Safety Tips for Women When Meeting Online

by | Jun 1, 2022 | 0 comments

Happy woman surfs internet on mobile phone sitting at small table on outdoors cafe terrace on autumn day

Last updated on July 30th, 2022

Featured image: Have you met someone online? Use these tips to protect yourself. | Photo by astakhovyaroslav on Envato

Online safety expert Tracey Breeden shares her top safety tips

By Carolyn Ray, Editor, JourneyWoman

According to a Pew Research Center survey of U.S adults in September 2021, 41% of Americans have personally experienced some form of online harassment.  (Source: Pew Research, The State of Online Harassment

As mentioned in our article How This Woman is Making The World Safer for Women” engaging in a digital space can have many of the same issues as in a physical environment: harassment, discrimination, threats and stalking. 

We asked women’s safety expert Tracey Breeden, VP, Head of Safety and Social Advocacy at March to share her thoughts on how to avoid online harassment. Breeden oversees Match Group’s trust and safety policies and initiatives across its global portfolio of 15 dating products and was previously at Uber as its first-ever Head of Women’s Safety and Gender-Based Violence Operations.

Whether you’re using a dating app, a website or participating in online forums and groups, Breeden has six recommendations to protect yourself. It comes as no surprise that several of these are aligned with our recommendations for solo travellers, starting with the very first tip. 

1. Trust your intuition

Across the board, online and in real life, if you feel something is off you have to trust your intuition, Breeden says. 

“It’s wired into us, just like animals. It’s just a matter of following that voice.” 

Tracey Breeden, VP, Head of Safety and Social Advocacy at Match

2. Be very sensitive about sharing personal information

Be very careful about sharing your personal information, whether you share it on a platform or you’re sharing it with somebody you’re engaging with. This goes for everything from Facebook groups to chats on apps. 

Breeden recommends thinking twice if you are being asked for phone numbers.

“How many times have you been asked by somebody you’re engaging with to leave the platform and go to another platform to share your information or go to a link that takes you to a website that asks for money?” she asks.

3. Test the boundaries of new relationships 

Breeden says that those with ill intentions show up on digital platforms in the same way they show up in real life. She recommends testing boundaries early on to see how people respond when you say ‘no’ to them. 

“What I’ve found is that people — and this is with any kind of abusive cycle — who violate your boundaries in a small way will eventually violate them in a big way,” she says. ”How do they respond when you say no? Do they respect your ‘no’ or do they try to get you to a yes? Some of these people may be very charming and they may be very nice. But then they use charm, then they may transition to fear.

woman in hammock with laptop

How This Woman is Making the World Safer for Women

Women’s safety advocate Tracey Breeden shares how women can protect and report online harassment, which data shows is intensifying.

Read More

4. Stay on the platform

Breeden sees behaviour where people try to get women off apps quickly and take them to another site or ask them to click on another link. Don’t do it, she advises. 

“They might say, ‘I need help’ or, ‘Can you help me just a little bit’ and then those requests get bigger and they escalate, possibly into requests for money,” she says. 

Learn how women can be seduced and swindled, watch Netflix’s Tinder Swindler.

Editor’s note: this tip applies to many situations, including booking accommodations. Recently, I had a problem with an Airbnb in Mexico, The owner tried to convince me to communicate with her on WhatsApp. Instead,  I voiced my concerns on the Airbnb platform, which led to a full refund and removal of her property from Airbnb. Once you go off platform, the company can’t help you. 

5. Meet on video before you meet in person

Traditionally, we might think that only older people are scammed. Breeden says it’s actually happening to young people too, through different types of scams, from romance to confidence scams. 

“If you’re thinking about meeting this person in-person, get them on a live video to confirm that this is the person that you’re actually speaking to or engaging with,” she recommends.   

Senior woman making video call on smartphone

Breeden suggests meeting over a video call before meeting in person / Photo by Twenty20photos on Envato

6. Report harassment

“A lot of people don’t report,” she says. “Reporting— it’s important because we have the ability to ban that account within the Match Group umbrella across over 15 dating apps. A lot of people don’t think reporting will make a difference but it will if we get that information, particularly in our communities where we can take action on it. “  

Breeden acknowledges the shame and guilt when something does happen, but also emphasizes that these things can happen to anyone. For solo travellers, she recommends consulting NO MORE, a non-profit organization that provides a global directory of resources to report harassment in every country around the world.  You can find it here.

Find resources and tools to combat harassment on the NO MORE directory here.

More Tips to Keep You Safe on the Road

A passionate traveller, Carolyn believes anything is possible when we follow our heart and trust our intuition. Raised in Florida, Carolyn loves all things Latin, margaritas, the ocean and music. She's a board member of the Society of American Travel Writers (SATW), a member of the Travel Media Association of Canada (TMAC) and the North American Travel Journalists Association (NATJA).

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