These days, many people are finding love online. With this expansive dating pool available, gone are the days of being set up by your best friend or your Mom.
However, conversing and meeting a stranger online can be dangerous if you’re not careful to protect your personal information. So in addition to keeping your real identity protected in your online profile (i.e., your real name, children’s names, address, work place, and other contact information), here are some general guidelines to keep you safe prior to meeting Mr. or Miss. Right, Right Now, or Wrong…
1. Never Give Out Personal Details
Until you get to know this person better, don’t provide personal information about you or your life. For instance, telling the suitor that you live within a city or area is alright, but don’t provide your street address or your real full name until you suss them out in a little more detail.
2. Go With Your Gut
If your instinct is telling you that your potential mate sounds too good to be true; chances are they might just be. I always tell friends to trust their intuition when it comes to online dating. If facts don’t add up or stories change from chat to online chat, you might be dealing with an online predator, or just a dishonest person who’s hiding bits of truth.
3. Start Your Meeting Anonymously
Sure, you should provide an authentic picture of yourself, but take the shot in a casual location—the beach, a park, on vacation. Don’t take the picture in front of your house with your address visible or at work where strangers could potentially track you down. And keep the first few chats safe by communicating through email or chat rooms on the dating site. This way, you don’t have to give out your private email or phone number right off the bat.
4. Opt for Private Phone Calls
By private I mean block your number so that Prince or Lady Charming won’t see your personal phone number when you call or text. Giving out a home phone number can put you in danger if the number is traceable. Even if it’s a cell, you may have posted this number on social media sites that are public and can be found online.
5. Don’t Feel Pressured to Meet
After exchanging multiple emails, texts, and phone calls, you may feel comfortable enough to meet his mysterious stranger. However, don’t be pressured into meeting before you’re ready. If this is truly a person worth meeting they will understand your need to take safety precautions and agree to meet in a public place, during daytime hours to reassure you as much as possible.
6. Meet in a Safe, Neutral Place
There are certain safety precautions you’ll want to take when meeting this dashing stranger for the very first time. For instance, agree to meet in a public place, far removed from your home. Don’t arrange for them to pick you up at your address. It’s best to set dates in public places for the first few encounters until you feel convinced they are who they say they are.
7. Make Your Plans Known
Tell a few close friends or family members where you are going on your date. And provide the full details—including the location, time your meeting, and time you will be home. You can even ask them to call during your date to check in as well as after the date when you expect you’ll be home.
8. Don’t Leave Personal Items Unattended
This includes not leaving your purse (containing your personal identification and cash) or your drinks (which could be dosed with drugs) unattended. And always be sure to order your own drinks so you can watch the pouring to ensure safe consumption.
9. Don’t Drink Too Much
I know that nerves will be on high alert at the possibility of meeting your dream man or woman. However, don’t lose track of how many drinks you are enjoying together. It’s easy to get a bit intoxicating and throw caution to the wind. Instead, plan to go for coffee as a first date or enjoy one drink and then opt for water after.
10. Take Alternative Routes Home
In addition to meeting in public places for the first few times, as recommended, take alternative routes home after your dates. Also, keep an eye in your rear view mirror to ensure you’re not being followed home. Or tell your date you plan to meet a friend or run errands after your date so they don’t know you are going straight home.