As Valentine's Day looms, Lancashire Police has offered a selection of safe dating tips.
As February begins, Lancashire Police's thoughts have turned to love, with the publication of a guide to making sure people are safe while dating online.
The force issued the advice through social media, and tips include getting the know the person, not the profile, being wary of anyone who asks to keep a relationship a secret and never sending money to someone you have met online.
Lancashire Police tweeted: "We can't promise you lifelong love, but we can help you to date safely online."
The guidance comes from Get Safe Online, which offers free advice around safety and security on the internet.
Tips for dating include:
1. Pick a reputable dating service and don’t move the conversation away from the website or app’s messaging service until you’re confident the person is who they say they are, and that their motives are honourable.
2. Check that the person is genuine by putting their name, profile pictures or any repeatedly used phrases and the term ‘dating scam’, ‘romance scam’ or ‘catfish’ into your search engine. Do a reverse image search to see if the photo is actually of somebody else.
3. Never send money or your bank details to someone you’ve met online, no matter how convincing the reason they give for needing it, nor how long you’ve been speaking to them. Banks usually do their best to track and recover your payment, but aren’t responsible for your losses if the request is fraudulent.
4. Get to know the person, not the profile. Ask plenty of questions and don’t rush into anything. This may also help you avoid becoming a victim of a false relationship where you’re simply being used for sex.
5. Remember that some dating apps use your mobile device’s location services to enable matches, but this could also compromise your personal safety.
6. Don’t overshare personal details. Revealing your full name, date of birth, home address or workplace could lead to fraud, identity theft or even personal harm. Protect the names, details and locations of your children and family members.
7. Be wary if someone you meet online tells you not to mention them to your friends and family. Fraudsters and sexual predators work by isolating their victims.
8. Before meeting an online suitor in person for the first time, tell a friend or family member that you’re meeting, and where. Keep your mobile phone switched on, and think about arranging for someone to call you during the date to give you the opportunity to make an excuse and leave early.
9. If you become a victim of romance fraud, don’t be embarrassed but report it immediately to Action Fraud on www.actionfraud.police.uk or on 0300 123 2040 – as well as the dating site where you met the perpetrator. Report any assaults to the police.