Safety tips for Cyber Dating

Jul 2, 2008 at 3:00 a.m. ET

Women (and men) are finding their dates on the Internet more than ever. What may have once seemed scary or geeky is now completely commonplace. And why not? It is far easier for the busy woman on the go to make and check a profile, meet a guy, and set up a date than to simply hope for the chance encounter with Mr Right!

Woman at a web cafe

While nothing is wrong with dating someone you met online first, there are some things that you need to consider before jumping into anything that you cannot get yourself out of.There are a number of tips that can help you date safely. In the end, there are going to be risks in dating. It doesn't matter if you met the guy online or in a supermarket. All you can do is take some safety precautions and think smart, just in case. The following tips should help you if you are interested in cyber dating.

Don't trust someone instantly

People have the ability to seem incredible online, and you might think you've met the catch of the century. He might advertise himself as being tall, handsome, affluent and in his twenties... however, until you meet him in person, you can't be sure. Don't fall too hard for someone you have not yet met in real life. For all you know, that hot-looking man could be a woman -- or "self-employed" may mean he earns his keep sitting on a street corner holding a hat. The point is, until you meet the person and get to know him -- you really never know what you're going to get.

Be careful about the information you give out and when

You should always be wary of giving out any of your personal information online, because you don't know who could end up with it. (You should not give out your address ever.) Avoid things like full names, cell phone numbers, and information about your specific location or where you work. It's much better to say you are "a customer service rep" or "pastry chef" as opposed to saying where you hold that particular job. Those little seemingly benign nuggets of information can add up to a pretty complete overview of your life!

Call him -- don't let him call you

When it comes time for the first call, ask him for his phone number. If he has caller ID, he will get your number when you ring him up unless you take steps to block your number (though you can also block his calls later on if need be). This gives you a chance to get to know him better, but still retain a comfortable safety level.

Trust your gut

If for any reason you begin feeling uncomfortable, then you need to trust those feelings. If you are talking for some time and notice inconsistencies in his story -- or if it's simply a nagging feeling in your gut, then you should just thank the man for his time and part ways. This will save you a lot of trouble in the long run.

Meet in public

Yes, you've heard it before, but you'd be surprised what some women ultimately do: When it comes time to meet in person, make sure that your first meeting -- and at least a few subsequent ones -- are in public.Here are some more safety tips:

  • Do not let him pick you up from home or work. In fact, don't get in a car alone with him to go anywhere!
  • You should meet him at the site of your date -- not at your home or place of work. (You probably shouldn't meet at any places you frequent, either, just in case he has hidden stalker tendencies.)
  • Don't bring him home with you until you have had a several dates. Don't rush.
  • Tell a good friend the name of the person you will be with and where you're going.
  • Tell that same friend that you will call at a certain time -- and make sure that you call. If you don't get in touch as planned, tell your friend will be able to assume that you are in some kind of trouble and ask her to call you. (Come up with a code word or phrase to use if you're in a tight spot.)
  • Keep your cell phone on at all times, and make sure that at least your 911 GPS tracking is enabled.

Dating online does not have to be dangerous. Just use some common sense, be careful and enjoy your time meeting new people!

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