Our basic tendency as humans is to trust that people are inherently good. Unfortunately, some people cannot be trusted and some do not have good intentions.
How do you really know if the person whose profile you just read is who they said they are? How do you know what they’re saying about their life is true? They may say the right thing yet you get that funny feeling that something isn’t quite right.
While online dating is a great way to meet new people, it’s worth taking precautions when conversing with and meeting potential dates.
Here are our six critical tips for dating safely:
1. Safeguard Your Personal Information
Does that man or woman you just started exchanging messages with need to know your personal email address, street address, phone number, or place of employment? No!
Do they need to know your last name? No! If you have an usual first name, you may want to use a more common name while online.
What if this person isn’t who they say they are? Do you really want them to know where you live or work? You haven’t even met them yet. What if you decide not to meet them and they get offended – do you want them to know how to find you? What if you just don’t connect on the first date – do you want them calling you non-stop?
Of course you don’t. While the examples may be a worst-case scenario, it can happen.
With the tools available online, its easy to find an address just using a home phone number. Cell numbers may not be far behind. Create a strategy or process for revealing personal information. Maybe you only give out your cell number once you’ve met and only if you feel safe in doing so.
Instead of using your regular email address, set up a free hotmail.com (or similar) address for online dating. This way you can keep you identity private. This will ensure that you can communicate with people outside the dating site communication system safely. (Note: Whatever you type in as your first and last name when you create your account will often appear in the From line of any emails you send. So choose accordingly. Test it by sending an email to yourself.)
Sometimes its better to exchange a few emails with someone you have met online before you chat on the telephone. If you’re a woman and are concerned about giving out your phone number to a man, get his phone number and call him from a payphone (if you can find one) or find out from you phone company how to hide your caller id information from being sent.
2. Meeting in Person
How do you decide when, or if, to meet someone in person that you have met online? It depends on what your goals are and the time you have. It can be a waste of time to meet everyone you’re conversing with.
It’s easy to let your guard down after you’ve been conversing by email for a few weeks or even a few days, so keep your contact information private. Remember, you haven’t actually met the person so you might not have any reason to trust them yet but it may feel like you know them.
We recommend meeting in a very public and busy place for the first time and maybe even the second, third, or seventh time – whatever it takes for you to feel safe.
You might want to make your first meeting a coffee date so as to keep it simple and short. That way if you don’t feel safe with the person or find out you don’t have much to talk about, you don’t have to wait too long before the date is over.
Arrange your own transportation to and from your first date. For one, you don’t know if they’re a good driver. Secondly, they may drink too much. Third, you really don’t know them very well yet.
Carry a cell phone with you.
Before you even think about inviting someone over to your home or getting into their car (on subsequent dates), trust your gut. If something doesn’t feel right listen! If you want to invite them over to your place for dinner, invite another couple or some friends over as well.
3. Tell a Friend
Before your first date, tell a couple of friends who you’re meeting, where you’re going and when you expect to be home. If you have the cell number of your date, give that to them as well. When you get home call your friends. If you’re going to be late call them so they don’t worry.
4. Stay Sober
In order to keep your wits about you, stay sober. This also means keeping your eye on any beverages you are drinking so no one can drug your drink.
5. Strange Requests
Be very wary of requests for money or sob stories. Don’t send them any money no matter how much they plead.
If your online connection asks you for the name of your first pet or the name of the street you grew up on, steer clear! Recognize those questions? Those are the typical questions used to verify you are who you say you are when you lose your password.
Scammers also join dating sites. Most are free to join after all.
6. Long Distance Dating
Online dating allows us to potentially meet people from all over the world. You may choose to converse with someone in another city, state or province, or country.
Meeting in person is obviously more costly and complicated as one or both of you will need to travel. New questions now arise: do you stay at their place? Do you share a hotel room or get separate ones? What if you do decide you want to have a relationship? Safety should always win over cost.
If you are really feeling unsure about meeting someone who lives in a different city than you, you could consider having a background check completed before agreeing to meet the person. You’ll find out if they have any criminal records and if they are who they say they are.
If they decide to come to your city but need some money to do so, don’t send it to them. That’s a probably sign that you’re about to be scammed.
Take your time. Trust yourself. If something doesn’t feel right listen! Only reveal personal information when and if it feels right to. You’re in charge and you can and should say No! if that’s what you’re feeling. If whomever you’re dating doesn’t honor your need to be cautious, ask yourself if this is someone you really want to be seeing.