Anyone can experience abuse when they’re online dating and it’s important to look out for the ‘red flags’ or warning signs.
They are disrespectful
This might include asking rude or intrusive questions or making unpleasant comments, especially about your gender, sexual preference, race, disability or any part of who you are. It can be a sign they are likely to become abusive.
Their profile doesn’t match how they act or sound, or their camera ‘doesn’t work’
This could be a sign they’re an online scammer known as a ‘catfish’ who’s using a fake profile. They pretend to be romantically interested in you and then manipulate you into loaning or giving them money, gifts or personal details. Or they blackmail you over nude or intimate images or videos, which is called sexual extortion or ‘sextortion’. They usually give you excuses or refuse to video chat or meet in person, or claim to work overseas, because they want to hide their true identify or motives. Read Scamwatch’s advice on romance scams.
They pressure you to move the conversation from a dating app to a messaging service very quickly
If you move to an online messaging or social media service you won’t be protected by safety features on the dating app. The other person may get access to your phone number, location, friends and wider network, as well as a lot of other personal information about you. If the person's intentions are to scam you, this information could be used to blackmail you after getting you to participate in a sexual video chat. See sextortion.
They pressure you to send nudes or get sexual in a video chat
Constant pressure to share nude content is a sign that someone may have bad intentions. No one has the right to share or threaten to share your intimate image or video with other people, without your consent in any circumstances. This is called image-based abuse or ‘revenge porn’ and it’s illegal. You can report it to eSafety so we can help remove the image or video or stop the threats. If they try to blackmail you, it’s called sexual extortion or ‘sextortion’ – you can follow eSafety’s steps to get help.
They pressure you to meet up in person, in a way that feels too quick or not right
You only need to meet face to face if and when you’re ready, and in way that feels safe and comfortable to you. Find out what to do before meeting someone in person.
They ‘love bomb’ you
This is when someone is overly complimentary, shows you a lot of attention and becomes romantic too quickly. This can be a sign of manipulative behaviour or coercive control, or they may be trying to lure you into a romance scam to steal your money or identity.
They try to manipulate you
Types of manipulation might include ‘gaslighting’ (when someone makes you question what you think or know), ‘ghostlighting (when someone stops communicating with you for no reason and then suddenly reconnects again – denying they cut contact in the first place) and ‘mosting’ (when someone intentionally leads you on, and then disappears without explanation).
They ask for detailed personal information
They might make it sound like a natural conversation, but watch out if they want to know private details like your birth date, maiden name, workplace or information about members of your family. They may be trying to put the details together so they can steal your money or identity. Or they could affect your privacy and security by sharing the information online (this is known as ‘doxing’). Find out how to protect your personally identifiable information and avoid online scams.
They keep contacting you even when you make it clear you’re not interested
This type of harassment can develop into cyberstalking, which is when someone continuously tracks you online in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable, worried or threatened. Read more about how to recognise and deal with cyberstalking.
They want to talk about your children
Online dating apps are sometimes used to get access to children and harm them. Do not:
- share information about any children in your care
- let the other person contact any children in your care
- meet the other person while you have any children with you.
If anyone asks for sexual images or videos of children, or for children to perform sex acts online report them to the Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation.
Online ‘grooming’ behaviours
If you’re under 18, you might meet someone who may want to harm you. At first, they could seem very nice and pay you a lot of attention, like asking you lots of details about yourself, giving you compliments or asking for regular photos of you. Then they ask you for sexual images or information you feel uncomfortable sharing. To find out more about grooming, go to our Young People page on unsafe and unwanted contact.