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Vancouver police remind online daters to be wary of predators

Stephanie Ip

Vancouver Police are launching a new online dating safety campaign. GETTY IMAGES

Vancouver Police are launching a new online dating safety campaign. GETTY IMAGES

The person on the other side of your dating app may seem like your soulmate but they're still a stranger.

That's the reminder the Vancouver Police is putting out there in their new safety campaign that seeks to arm eligible singles with tips on approaching the world of online dating.

In recent years, police have noticed an increase in online dating as the reason for initial contact in sexual assault and fraud cases, spurring the campaign announced Wednesday.

"Particularly on dating sites, women are finding themselves at higher risk for sexual assault, violent crime and fraud," said Det. Const. Michelle Grandbois at a press conference on Wednesday. "But these crimes are under reported and we want to hear from victims so they can access the resources and help prevent others from being victimized."

The campaign features a series of posters mimicking online dating profiles with the slogan, "They don't always fit the profile." As well, police have shared a number of tips for how to approach online dating and stories from those who have been victimized by online predators at catchyou.ca.

Those who date online are reminded not to give out personal information too freely, not to use a profile photo that can be used to reverse Google image search for other personal details and not to "friend" a stranger too quickly on Facebook and other platforms. Daters should arrange for their first interaction to take place in public and to let a friend know where they'll be and with whom.

Grandbois, who works with the VPD's sex crime unit, said there was not any particular site that was of concern, but that predators might be on multiple websites at a time, adapting their profile as needed.

"They can happen on any dating site and there are dating sites for everybody," said Grandbois, noting it wasn't just women on traditional dating sites who were at risk.

When asked whether there were any "mistakes" that daters could avoid, Grandbois was quick to point out these crimes were not the fault of the victims.

"I would never call it a mistake that a women makes. This is a legitimate thing – lots of people meet online, on dating sites and it’s unfortunate that predators have found this out and it’s a perfect platform for them to look through and basically select potential victims," she said.

sip@postmedia.com

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