The number of sexual assaults, initiated by online dating, being reported to police has increased - according to the National Crime Agency.
In 2009 there were 33 reported offences while in 2014 there were 184. That's a six-fold increase in five years.
The numbers are still relatively small when you consider how many people use online dating websites each year.
But the figures are expected to rise again as the popularity of dating websites continue to grow.
BBC Crimewatch has done an investigation into the safety of online dating.
Speaking to the programme, the NCA gave some of their top tips to stay safe when dating online.Be selective when choosing a usernameYou don't have to use your name, your location, age... or anything else about yourself.We're not suggesting you have to lie, but it might be worth being a bit ambiguous with your choice of username.Giving yourself an online persona makes it easier to cut ties if you decide you want out. *
And it makes it much harder for you to be tracked down on other websites like Facebook or Twitter.
DONT RUSH THINGS!
The NCA report says that in more than half of the sexual assault cases reported there were communications of a sexual nature before they met.
It is easy to open up to people online. It can almost feel as though you are freer to be more emotionally honest.But be careful. Don't let your instincts become confused by excitement and strong feelings.The person you are talking to is still a stranger.Take a step back and think - is this normal behaviour?It wouldn't be normal for a person in the street to ask to borrow money.It's not acceptable on a dating site either.And it's not just money to think about either - if they are asking personal or uncomfortable questions you don't have to answer.Be sure to tell someone about your plans.
You have been talking to this person online for a while now, and you've both decided you want to meet up.That's totally fine - just think about how and where.Meet them somewhere public and tell someone where you are going.Don't feel any pressure to go back to their house, or invite them home to yours - the NCA reports 72% of offences were committed at the victim's or offender's home.And finally don't feel bad if you don't think it's going well and you want to go home.
Be Web Wise Block and report suspicious users. You can block and report concerns about any suspicious user anonymously from any profile page, email or messaging window. Keep conversations on the platform. Bad actors will try to move the conversation to text, personal email or phone conversations.
Asking you for money or donations.Requesting photographs.Minors using the platform.Members sending harassing or offensive messages or emails.Members behaving inappropriately during or after meeting in person.Fraudulent registration or profiles.Spam or solicitation, such as invitations to call 0800 numbers or attempts to sell products or service.
First in-person meetings are exciting, but always take precautions and follow these guidelines to help you stay safe.
Get to Know the Other Person Keep your communications on the platform and really get to know users online/using the app before meeting them in person. Bad actors often push people to communicate off the platform immediately. It’s up to you to research and do your due diligence.
Always Meet and Stay in Public Meet for the first few times in a populated, public place – never in a private or remote location and never at your date’s home or apartment. If your date pressures you, end the date and leave at once.Tell Your Friends and Family Members of Your Plans.
Inform a friend or family member of your plans and when and where you’re going. Make sure you have your cell phone charged and with you at all times.Transport Yourself to and from the meeting
You need to be independent and in control of your own transportation, especially in case things don’t work out. Stay Sober
Consumption of alcohol and/or other drugs can impair your judgment and potentially put you in danger. It’s important to keep a clear mind and avoid anything that might place you at risk. Be aware that bad actors might try to take advantage of you by altering your beverage(s) with synthetic substances.
There's always help and advice available. If you think they are a scammer then report them to the dating website.
If you've been threatened or experienced violence or assault then speak to the police.