So you're looking for love, just like millions of other Australians. But where exactly should you be looking? Do free online dating sites offer a good service at the right price? Or should you opt for paid online dating sites instead?
We've reviewed dating websites like RSVP, eHarmony, Oasis, OkCupid, Plenty of Fish and Zoosk, as well as apps Bumble and Tinder, to help you single out which kind of site is most likely to suit you.
Our investigation looks at key things like price, privacy, and demographics and found that online dating scams are rife, and some privacy policies and terms and conditions are riddled with disturbing provisions.
Which dating app is your perfect match?
Free sites can be a good, low-commitment way to start, but they do come with strings attached: often, you can't access full profiles or all the features of the site (which is the case with eHarmony).
Some free sites can be quite light-on in the details department so you have to make a dating decision almost solely on appearance (Tinder is notorious for this). Sites like eHarmony have more detailed search criteria but the paid version will yield a narrower search, giving you matches you're more likely to be into.
Paid membership can give you greater control over your privacy settings and can weed out the weirdos and hook-up artists so you won't be inundated with messages from people who aren't right for you.
Sites that only let you contact members if you've both liked or swiped right on each other also eliminate unwanted messages
Sites like OkCupid that only let you contact members if you've both liked or swiped right on each other also eliminate unwanted messages. Bumble takes this one step further by only allowing women to send the first message (for heterosexual matches) to minimise the deluge of messages women invariably receive on dating sites.
For many sites, you can't actually access pricing information until you've joined up, by which time you might decide it's not worth it. To help you decide whether to part with your hard-earned cash, we've listed membership prices for each site below.
CHOICE Tip: If you want some control over which third-party advertisers can track your online movements and target you with ads, you can opt out of ad targeting by ad agencies who are members of the Network Advertising Initiative. Check out their website for more details.
Who's it for? Younger membership. Female-friendly, where women make the first move (for heterosexual matches).
Price: Free to $30.99/month.
Privacy: Facebook details may be shared.
Who's it for? Profiles created from a detailed questionnaire. You can only see photos if you pay.
Price: Free to $49.90/month.
Privacy: eHarmony holds onto your information indefinitely.
Who's it for? Younger membership. Virtually all features are free.
Price: Mostly free.
Privacy: Profile info (including photos) can be used for advertising or shared with third parties.
Who's it for? Detailed, math-based matching system. Good for queer, gender-diverse and non-monogamous dating.
Price: Free to $US34.90/month.
Privacy: Your info may be shared with other dating sites like Plenty of Fish and Tinder.
Plenty of Fish
Who's it for? Uses a "Relationship Chemistry Predictor" to find matches.
Price: Free to $19.35/month.
Privacy: Your profile could be made visible on other dating sites like OkCupid and Tinder.
Who's it for? Most members are 35+. Considered more credible due to higher membership costs.
Price: Free to $89/month.
Privacy: Your info (including photos) could be used for advertising or shared with a third party.
Who's it for? Easy-to-use app-based dating service. Uses geolocation to find matches.
Price: App is free; membership costs vary.
Privacy: App can access your Facebook profile and content of your chats.
Who's it for? Most members are 30+. Matches based on compatibility.
Price: Free to $34.95/month.
Privacy: Zoosk may use your email contacts to invite your friends to the site.
Finding love on Facebook
Facebook Dating officially launched in the US in September 2019 and is currently available in 19 other countries, although there is currently no date set for its arrival to Australia. Users of Facebook Dating are able to create a dating profile that is separate from their Facebook profile and potential matches are recommended based on preferences, shared interests, Facebook activity and mutual friends.
You're also able to discover other singles that share similar interests through groups or events. Your friends and family aren't able to see what you do with your dating profile, and you can't be matched with your friends unless you use the Secret Crush feature and you both add each other to your list.
Given how many of us use Facebook, the convenience of an embedded dating app will most likely trump users' concerns about privacy
Facebook Dating also allows users to share Facebook and Instagram stories and add Instagram posts to their dating profiles.
After the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Facebook users might be understandably wary of sharing personal information in the Facebook app – especially particularly sensitive information that you might share in the course of getting to know someone. But given how many of us use Facebook, the convenience of an embedded dating app will most likely trump users' concerns about privacy. We'll be watching this closely!
We asked a range of people to tell us about their experiences with online dating, including how long they've been on the app, their successes, their challenges, and which app worked for them.
* Not their real name
Don't let a scammer break your heart – or worse.
Internet dating can be a great way to meet new people – and possibly find 'the one' – but it's important to keep your wits about you and protect your own privacy and safety, first and foremost.
How to stay safe on online dating sites
Before you sign up for an online dating service, consider the following:
- Read terms and conditions so you know what you're signing up to and how much it will cost.
- Set reminders in your phone or diary to cancel your subscription to avoid inadvertently rolling over for a further term.
- Never include personal information such as your real name, workplace, work or home address, phone number or birthday, in your profile.
- Do a reverse Google image search on photos of profiles of people you're interested in to check for authenticity.
- When you meet somebody for the first time, pick a public place, tell a friend where you're going and keep the first meeting brief and inexpensive, such as grabbing a cup of coffee.
- Don't let somebody new pick you up or drop you at your home.
- Never send money to someone you've only ever contacted online or over the phone.
Watch out for online dating scams
According to Scamwatch, almost 90% of scam reports relating to dating and romance occurred through the internet or mobile apps. In 2019 alone, Australians lost almost $27 million to dating scams – although it could be even more as many people are too embarrassed to report losses.
The ACCC reports that they received 3640 complaints about dating and romance scams in 2019, with women losing more than twice as much money as men. People aged 45+ are the most likely to be targeted.
Social media is where many people get stung, with $9.2 million in losses attributed to dating and romance scams conducted via social media – an increase of over 20% compared to 2016.
The ACCC received 3640 complaints about dating and romance scams in 2019, with women losing more than twice as much money as men
Popular scams include convincing users to part with their personal details or money, which is often sent overseas and is unrecoverable.
"Scammers go to great lengths to gain your trust, spending months and even years building a relationship with you. Once your defences are lowered, they spin an elaborate tale about how they need your financial help with a crisis, such as being ill or stranded, and ask for money," says ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard.
"These scams can also pose a risk to your personal safety, as scammers are often part of international criminal networks. Scammers have lured unwitting Australian victims overseas, putting people in dangerous situations that can have tragic consequences."
Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.