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Seven rules for safe internet dating

The key to safe dating is safeguarding personal information from strangers who might have other ideas, according to safety and security expert Robert Siciliano, author of The SafetyMinute. A nationally known author and speaker on identity theft and personal security, Siciliano recently launched a nationwide Safe Dating Campaign to alert the public to the perils of online dating.

Robert Siciliano is offering the following seven rules for safe Internet dating:

  1. Use a unique web-based email account
    If you are using online dating websites, set up a free web-based email account such as Yahoo or Hotmail to keep your dating life and your personal life separate. Avoid using personal information in your profile, such as your birth date, when setting up your email address, and be sure your outgoing name only contains your first name, or an alias.
  2. Personal privacy starts with your personal number
    If you're hoping to find the perfect online connection or if you use personal ads, but you are afraid to give out your number, you're not alone. You never know whom you're talking to when answering an ad or online posting -- even someone you meet in a club. So why give personal information to a perfect stranger? Your phone numbers are gateways to your personal identity. They can provide your address and details about your private life. Sharing them right away with a new acquaintance is unwise. Safeguard your privacy and safety. Set up a personal and disposable toll-free number at www.MyPrivateLine.com. You can direct the number to ring anywhere convenient for you -- at home, a friend's house or your cell phone. MyPrivateLine offers 30 free minutes, is low cost, and takes seconds to set up. Now you can make that important connection, but your phone numbers stay private, and so do you.
  3. Tell a friend where you are going and who you're meeting
    As exciting as it may be to meet a stranger, it makes sense to tell a friend or family member where you are going, and who you are meeting. Or simply leave a detailed note about your plans at home.

    Knowing that your friends and family have a way of finding you will give everyone peace of mind and make you feel more at ease meeting your new acquaintance.

  4. Keep it short
    When arranging to meet someone for the first time, meet in a public place, not your apartment, and keep it short. A quick coffee at a popular caf� will allow you both to get a feel for each other, and you can decide if you want to get together again.
  5. Stick to a firm date agenda
    Discuss ahead of time where you will meet and what you will do, and stick to it. Be wary of any last minute changes, such as an invitation to get picked up at home, or a change of venue. Changing plans, from one bar to another down the street, is probably OK, but deciding to cancel a musical to go cave exploring instead, is not.
  6. Drink in moderation
    If drinking alcohol is part of your date, then drink in moderation. While having a drink may help you relax and ease your nervousness, it also impedes your judgment.
  7. Have an exit strategy
    Set yourself a predetermined time for when the meeting will end, and share the information with your date beforehand. Informing your date that "you have to meet friends downtown at 9 or 10 pm after your date," gives you a nice exit strategy, and an excellent reason to leave should the meeting turn sour.
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