MPOWER guide to using hook-up and dating apps safely

In light of the recent tragic news from Sligo, our pals at MPOWER have some advice on how to safely use hook-up and dating apps to connect with people online.

The hands of a me=an holding his phone. This article is about how to use dating apps safely.
Image: Unsplash

On Wednesday, April 13, news broke that two men were murdered in Sligo after the killer had arranged to meet them through a popular gay dating app. Nowadays, many people use dating apps to connect with potential hook-ups and while most of the time this leads to fun experiences, the need to use these apps safely is ever-present.

For this reason, it is necessary to take some precautions if you decide to meet someone you have connected with on dating apps and do it safely. Here is a list of tips compiled by MPOWER, an initiative of HIV Ireland.

Ask for a picture of their face
Even though some people that sign up on dating apps are sometimes reluctant to share pictures of their faces, it is a necessary precaution to ask for a picture of their face before you decide to meet them. If they refuse to show their face, even after you have shared yours, it is probably not safe for you to meet with them.

Video call them
Even after having a face pic, it is still not really safe to meet with someone as the photo might be fake. A quick and easy way to make sure the person you have connected with is who they say they are is to ask them to do a video call and show themselves. To do so safely, you often don’t even need to share your personal mobile number as most dating apps such as Grindr and Scruff have their own video-chat functionality.

Look them up on other socials
Another way to confirm that the person you’re talking to exists outside the hook-up apps where you’ve met them is to look them up on other social media. Ask them for their social media handles and do not trust social media accounts that were recently created or only have a few posts, as those could be set up on purpose.

Let people you trust know
Talk to someone in your family or your friends circle about potentially meeting someone from a dating app, especially if you’re doing so for the first time. It is advisable to share your location and tell them about where you are going to meet so that it is possible for them to find you in case you need help.

Meet in public first
If it is for the first time, it is safer to meet in a place where other people are present. This will allow you to have some time to chat and get to know the person you’re meeting, before moving to a more private location. If at any point you get the impression that something is off, find an excuse and leave immediately.

Be careful with food and drinks
Even though it is common for people to offer their date or hook up a drink or something to eat, it is best not to accept it, especially if you don’t see how it’s been prepared. It is very easy and common to spike food and drinks, so it’s best to be careful when accepting them. Also, bring your own lube, as that can also be spiked.

Call for help if needed
If you find yourself in an emergency, call 999 and get help. If you’ve been subject to abuse by someone you met online, do not hesitate to report the incident to the Gardaí and to reach out for support.

Trust your instincts
If you get the feeling something is wrong at any point, leave immediately if you’re able to do so or ask them to go and alert friends and the Gardaí.

We want to stress that you are in no way responsible for other people’s actions. However, given that anyone could potentially become a victim, we need to protect ourselves to the best of our abilities.

If you or someone you care about is in need of support, please visit: or call National LGBT Helpline on freephone 1800 929 539. Out of Hours: freephone the Samaritans on 116-123.
Available 7 days a week, from 6.30 pm to 10 pm Mon – Thur, from 4 pm to 10 pm Fridays, and from 4 pm to 6 pm on Sat & Sun.

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