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Safety Tips for Online Dating

At the Beginning:

  • Choose a reputable online dating site that has adequate customer support, a listed phone number, and full address.  Ensure the company has strict security, privacy, and safety policies.  Look specifically for safety features such as the ability to block members (without being penalized), and make sure that your email or chat correspondence is contained on the site and not sent directly to your private email address.

  • Never give out too much personal information.  And by “personal information,” we don’t mean as personal as your social security number; we’re talking basics—like your last name, your home phone number, where you live, and where you work.  Stick to first names only, no matter how much you might immediately like and trust someone.

  • Ask for a few recent photos.  While the photo you receive of that handsome, buff senior executive could really be the overweight, unemployed, and married man with whom you’ve been corresponding, the goal is to rule out anyone who won’t provide a photo right off the bat.  Asking for a few different photos might also help discourage someone from sending you a phoney representation.

  • Set up a special email account.  While your online dating service shouldn’t reveal your own personal email account, it’s a good idea to set up a new email account, specifically for online dating purposes.  This email address should have only your first name – both in the email address itself and in the name/from field.  That way, if, after awhile, you decide to correspond via email with someone, your special account will be set up and ready to go.

  • Be weary of free online dating sites.  Keep in mind the saying “you get what you pay for” for a couple of reasons.  Not only will free sites likely not offer the kind of service, features, and options you’re looking for, but there’s no accountability in their users.  There’s no way for users to be traced because they haven’t even had to provide so much as a credit card.

  • Save copies of your correspondence.  Keep a special folder on your desktop with copies of all your instant messenger conversations, emails, and chats.  Name each file as the date of your conversation.  Seem overboard?  Well, not only could it really protect you down the road, but you might start noticing inconsistencies in what someone is saying, and with everything documented, you’ll be able to go back and easily check.

On the Phone:

Even when your “online” relationship moves to the next level, i.e. the phone conversation, you should never give out your home phone number.  Use a cell, a payphone (initially at least), or an anonymous phone services.  If calling from home, be sure to block your number.

Meeting for the First Time:

  • First off, don’t call it a first date.  Make it a meeting – and a casual one.  Meet for coffee during the day in a busy, public place.

  • If possible, take a friend along to be introduced to your potential date, and then arrange a time and place to meet back with your friend.  If you’re not able to take a friend, make sure you let someone know exactly where you’re going, when you’ll be back, and give him/her all the information you have on the person you’re meeting.

  • Do not go back home with the person you’re meeting, invite him/her over to your house, or get a ride home.  Even though a ride home might seem harmless, not only do you not want this person knowing where you live, but you’re also handing over a lot of control and opening yourself up to all kinds of vulnerabilities in the car.
Above all – trust your instinct.  If something isn’t sitting right with you even though you might not be able to explain it, follow that feeling through.  You should be very cautious, slow down, or back off altogether. 

Remember, your instinct is ultimately the best screening tool you have.
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