Details of the now infamous Tinder Swindler who has allegedly conned many women out of huge sums of money has again brought safety concerns around online dating to the fore.
The use of dating platforms by criminals to track their victims worldwide put everyone looking for love on these dating sites at risk.
Here we implore South African women, including parents of teenagers who are venturing into the world of dating, to be extra vigilant when meeting potential partners - remember, they are still strangers at this point.
These practical tips and guidelines from Seugnette van Wyngaard, Head of 1st for Women Insurance, help families to understand the dangers and how to avoid being swindled...
1. Make sure you use a reputable dating or social media site. Do an online search to find out about other users' experiences with the site.
2. Beware if the potential love interest asks for money. Never disclose your or your parents' or family's current financial situation, banking details, ID numbers or any other sensitive information to someone.
Never send or receive money spurred on by the advice of someone you don't know well and trust completely. Be especially wary of those who have "lucrative" opportunities that are almost too good to be accurate and push you to act fast.
3. Be aware of sextortion scams where steamy pictures or videos received are then used for blackmail. Never send private photos of yourself to anyone, especially strangers.
4. Check the geographical settings on the site. Other people will likely see your general location, but your specific address should not be visible. Your location settings on social media (revealing where you check-in, for example) should also be restricted.
5. Research potential matches by doing online searches to confirm the details they provide are true and consistent. Check Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or TikTok.
6. Speak to your date on the phone before you agree to meet in real life. Speaking to someone gives you a better idea of who they are.
7. Always take your car or have someone you trust drop you off. Do not let your date pick you up from your home.
The first reason is that you don't want someone who is essentially a stranger to know where you live. The second is that you don't want them to be driving, which gives them complete control over where they take you.
8. Meet in a busy, public setting. This ensures that other people are around should you feel uncomfortable or require help.
9. Tell a friend or family member where you're meeting and give them an estimated time you should be back or need to be picked up. This way, somebody will be aware if plans have gone awry.
10. Provide a friend with your date's telephone number and arrange to send a message at a specific time to let them know that everything is going well.
11. Share your live location with a trusted contact for the entire date so that they know exactly where you are.
12. Arrange for a good friend or group of friends to be in the same area if you urgently need their assistance.
13. If you are legal age, don't drink too much. It would help if you kept a clear head – being under the influence of alcohol could leave you vulnerable and impair your judgement and inhibitions. Also, always keep a close eye on your drink to ensure that nothing suspicious is added to it.
14. Don't give away too many personal details when you first meet. Your address and regular hangouts are details to be shared only once you know each other a little better.
15. Carry pepper spray – and know how to use it. This could keep you safe in the worst-case scenario.
"Most importantly, remember that your safety is your priority. If at any point you feel that something isn't right, excuse yourself, stand up and leave, ask for help or call someone you trust – you should never worry about sparing someone's feelings or being polite," Van Wyngaard concludes.
Share your stories and questions with us via email at email@example.com. Anonymous contributions are welcome.
Don't miss a story!
For a weekly wrap of our latest parenting news and advice sign up to our free Parent24 newsletter.