When a 46-year-old Vancouver woman went looking for love on a dating site, she never dreamed that after her first date, she would wake up without her clothes on and no recollection of the night before. A 28-year-old woman met a man online and invited him in for tea. Instead, he sexually assaulted her.

These stories are becoming increasingly common as more people turn to online dating, but Vancouver Police suspect that most crimes related to online dating are never reported.

“There is no shortage of stories about bad dates gone wrong,” says Detective Constable Michelle Grandbois of the VPD Sex Crimes Unit. “People dating online, particularly women, are finding themselves at a higher risk for sexual assaults, violent crime, and fraud. But the crimes are under-reported and we want to hear from victims so they can access resources, and help prevent others from being victimized.”

Thanks to the generosity and support of the Vancouver Police Foundation, the VPD has launched a new campaign to help online daters increase their personal safety and has compiled tips on www.catchyou.ca that offer information on how users can reduce the likelihood that they will become victims of assault or fraud. For example, if you use an online dating site or app, the VPD suggests you:

  • provide as little personal information as possible on dating profiles and social media sites
  • use a photo you haven’t used anywhere else online so someone cannot find you through a Google image search
  • Google someone you’re going to meet to look for background information,
  • don’t “friend” potential dates on social media – you could give strangers unlimited access to information about you, your family, and friends
  • meet dates in a public place and let someone know where you are going and who you are meeting.

“He may sound like your soul mate, but he is still a stranger,” says Grandbois. “Take control of your safety online and help reduce the chances you’ll meet someone very different than you were expecting.”

For more information on how you can stay safe while online dating, go to www.catchyou.ca.