I've been on my fair share of bad Tinder dates — men whose profile pictures were obviously fake (or 20 years outdated), overzealous gents who wanted sex within the first five minutes of meeting and even a fellow who wanted to buy my dirty socks.
I've also found meaningful long-term relationships and friends, which is proof Tinder can be an amazing way to meet new people and find lasting connections, despite its reputation for hookups.
Over the years, I have developed a sort of system for determining if someone I've met on Tinder is a real, authentic, non-creepy individual and safe to meet in person.
Here are six simple questions I ask myself to avoid the duds and find the studs.
Warning: Some of these questions might make me sound a bit crazy, but hey, how careful is too careful?
1. Are they a bot?
It's a well-known fact Tinder and other dating apps are littered with fake “bot” profiles, designed to gather information with the goal of identity theft.
I get suspicious that a profile is a fake if there's only one picture in their profile, their bio is empty and they respond to messages with lightning speed.
Sometimes, the way they respond is odd, and you can tell it's a pre-fabricated message.
And if they want to take it offline immediately and ask for your phone number, you might just be signing yourself up to get calls about “winning a cruise” for the rest of your life. (Yes, this has happened to me.)
2. Is their profile littered with shirtless selfies?
If a man has the stereotypical, shirtless, mirror selfie as his profile picture, I pretty much immediately write him off.
In my experience, people post these kinds of photos because they're looking to hook up. While I have no scientific proof of this, every man I have ever gone out with who posted a shirtless selfie has been pushy and rude about having sex on the first date.
Even if you're on the prowl for a friend with benefits, do you really want to do the nasty with a guy who's trying to hook up with as many women as possible? That's just not smart from a sexual health perspective. Make sure you use protection, ladies.
3. Do they have a criminal background?
I always try to get a first and last name out of a potential Tinder date before I agree to meet them in person.
If you can find out where they work, that's even better. Why? Because this is all you need to stalk the hell out of them online.
It sounds insane, I know, but I have found out some of my Tinder matches are married, lying about their age and appearance or have a criminal record. In one particularly disheartening case, a match was lying about all of those things.
It's pretty easy to find out if someone has a criminal record by searching for mugshots using their first and last name. Sometimes, you can find mugshots just by searching their name followed by "mugshot" on a search engine.
If that doesn't work, you can also search public records sites and local law enforcement databases.
4. Are they a sex offender?
You'll need a first and last name for this one as well.
It's easy to find out if your Tinder match has ever been convicted of a sex crime, thanks to the National Sex Offender Registry.
By typing in a first and last name in the registry, you can find out if a date has ever been convicted of a sex crime, aliases they might use and their current address. The site also displays a photo.
5. Are the photos on their profile real?
If you've ever met up with a Tinder date only to find that they look absolutely nothing like their photos, you'll appreciate this trick.
The easiest way to expose a photo as a fake is to do a reverse image search.
So if your match's profile pic is the same as a college student with a completely different name, odds are, the photo is fake.
6. Are they a fake celeb?
Most of us single ladies would jump at the chance to go out with our favorite celeb, which is great luck for creepers who pose as celebrities to get laid.
This has only happened to me once, but I found it especially annoying.
I'm not sure if these profiles are created just to screw with people or if there are actually guys out there who think a woman will respond positively if she's expecting Jason Statham and gets Joe Shmo Creepo. Facepalm.
If you get asked out by someone claiming to be a celeb, it's super easy to tell if they're legit thanks to Tinder's verified account feature.
If their name has a blue check mark next to it, they're the real deal. If you find a faker, do womankind a favor and report them.
If you're diving into the online dating scene, you're in for lots of fun, plenty of awkwardness and probably the occasional horror-story date.
While every guy you go out with might not be Mr. Right, you can at least make sure you stay safe and sane by asking yourself these six questions to weed out the creepers.