Online dating has been around since 1995 with the pioneering creator of the popular website, Match.com. In the past 10 years, there has been a spike in online dating popularity. The reasons range from how convenient it is to find people and the ability to find a match online for just about anyone. If you can dream of your ideal person, then you can simply type those qualities into an algorithm-based system and Voila! An assortment of people who meet those exact specifications.
There are even specialized sites where you can exclusively date skateboarders, farmers or people who practice your religion. Not to mention, the ease of finding attractive singles in your area by simply downloading one of the many free swiping apps for your smartphone such as Tinder, Bumble and the same-gender dating app, Scruff.
According to the Pew Research Center, “55% of Americans who are in a marriage or committed relationship say they met their significant other online.” Those stats are pretty good for someone unsure of whether online dating would work out for them or not. However, the ease and convenience of meeting a lot of new people also come with its downsides. Daters shouldn’t have to worry about meeting a potential sociopath or even accidentally dating someone married, but it happens. People meet and like each other at first glance all the time, but once two people get to know each other, their fondness for each other can fizzle out all too suddenly. This is especially true for daters navigating a world full of Mr. and Miss Wrongs looking for their Mr. or Miss Right.
The Daily Mail cites that, “From 2013-15 dating sites were linked to a staggering 828 criminal cases including 88 allegations of rape, 49 sex attacks, and 180 violent crimes. There were also 115 cases of harassment and stalking and 43 incidents involving blackmail.” Meeting people comes with the potential of meeting attackers, this is especially true for females with 85% of victims thought to be women. Stalking and sex attacks can become just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to meeting up with strangers.
Unfortunately, some dating sites do not sort out convicted felons from the masses and stories like the Sharon Siermans tragedy, a woman who went on a first date with a man with 100 criminal convictions and later died by his hand, become unfortunate events that could have been avoided. The majority of people still pursue finding a good partner where they can build a future with and fear of the unknown should not deter those people who wish to find love.
An easy way to guard yourself against potential dangers is to get a virtual phone number. It’s much safer than giving out your personal phone number to scads of people. Your personal phone number is just that, personal. A lot of intimate information can be found about a person from their phone numbers, such as where a person works. Once you know one piece of information about someone it becomes easier and easier to piece together a jumbled puzzle. In fact, about 60% of people regret giving out their phone number to someone online.
Online dating services such as the previously mentioned, Match.com have already begun their foray into providing users with their own virtual phone number. Users can now freely text and call their matches without disclosing personal information. Users outside of Match.com can still get their own virtual numbers through a variety of companies and apps.
One of these companies is Global Call Forwarding, which provides daters protection against persistent suitors. Global Call Forwarding describes their service as “a layer of protection” and a “buffer” between someone that you are uncertain about, don’t know, or are simply not interested in. Virtual phone numbers from Global Call Forwarding feature typical blocking functions, so if you feel that you have stumbled into a relationship that has crossed a line it is simple to keep them from bothering you on your virtual number. If they are extremely consistent and call from several different numbers then you can simply stop your service with no questions asked or switch your number.
A list of apps that can give you a virtual phone number or “burner” line can be found in the Google and Android app stores. Some of these apps include Hushed, Google Voice and Textfree. These apps charge by the minute or through a monthly or annual rate. The app Sideline includes several key features including choosing your own area code and customizing a personal voicemail message. The apps listed all require a starting phone number except for Textfree. All you need for Textfree is an email address to get started which means you can forward all of your calls and messages to your computer or tablet.
These virtual phone numbers, apps and burner phones give daters the option of control. Not just in online dating, but it is also a helpful tool in the real world. Getting approached at a bar is still a common practice, and if you’re not interested in the person asking for your number, then you have the option to give out your virtual phone number instead. If this person goes so far as to call your phone in front of you to see if you gave them a real number, you can show them that your virtual number is functioning perfectly.
The Daily Dot described virtual phone numbers as providing “the ability to cut the strings on anyone after or before things go south, which in turn allows users to date freely with more confidence. Instead of daintily dipping your toes into the shallow end, you can dive into the deeper waters of the dating pool.”
If you or someone you care about is interested in online dating or have already started, then keep in mind that there are options such as virtual phone numbers to keep users safe from harm. These apps and services may not have been created for these exact purposes, but they are certainly helpful in the uncertain world of online dating.