Understandably, this is the question that most women and many men are concerned with prior to registering for an online dating site. Unless you are meeting your date through a mutual friend, your church, or your dear Aunt Lulu, you are faced with the same safety issues that you would be if you met someone while out at a club, sipping a drink at a bar, or while walking in town. In other words... it's as safe as any other way to meet someone as long as you use your brain.
Overstating the obvious when it comes to online safety:
• Tip 1: Protect your anonymity. Never use your real name or any identifying information on your profile, including your username. If you wouldn't give personal info out over the telephone, don't give it out online.
• Tip 2: Use your first name only with your date, both on the telephone, and when you meet, until YOU feel comfortable. Do not give out your address, or any personal identifying information about yourself, including your company name.
If questioned about this, you can simply state that this is what you feel most comfortable with at this point. Legitimate online daters will completely understand your reasons for doing this, and likely will be doing the same.
• Tip 3: Always use your cell phone rather than a work or home home. There is less identifying information through your cell phone and doesn't trace to your home. Also, don't give out your email which can give identifying information through IP addresses and web searches.
• Tip 4: Take your time getting to know someone on-line. You will likely find that the anonymity of online communication (through chat, dating site email exchange and text) makes it easier to reveal things about yourself you wouldn't ever reveal to a stranger in-person. This doesn't mean weeks of banter and online flirting, but you need to get a sense of this person before you get together. You might find that in message 3, your date suddenly displays some jealousy over your activities, or asks too many questions about your sexual preferences. TRUST YOUR INNER JEDI!
• Tip 5: Before you meet in person, move the conversation from online to phone. During a phone chat you'll get a better sense of whether your personalities click. (Again, engage your spidey-sense!)
• Tip 6: Meet in a busy public place, like a coffee shop or bookstore. Don't have your date pick you up or drive you home. Let someone know your plans, where you're going, what time, and your date's name. Keep your initial meeting short and if you like the person, there's always time later for a longer date!
• Tip 8: As tempting as it may be to immediately respond to a request to "friend" someone on Facebook, so you can peer into their lives, do not do this! This instantly gives a stranger access to names and addresses of places you frequent, the names of your friends and relatives, not to mention your high schools, colleges, possibly workplace, and pictures of you, your friends and children.
• Tip 9: Although it pains us to even have to bring up something so obvious, do not give any money or financial information to anyone on the internet, even after you have begun to correspond with them regularly. And after you meet, if they start giving you a sob story about their sad financial status, and hint about borrowing money, or investments you could contribute to, RUN and consider reporting to law enforcement.
• Tip 10: The biggest threat to your judgment, when on a date, is alcohol. Alcohol lessens your inhibitions. Keep it to one drink.. nurse it, sip it slowly, and if you're enjoying yourself and want to stay, ask for ice water, coffee or tea. Stay alert, and keep your drink in your line of vision at all times as well.