Whether it's your first foray into the world of online dating or your 50th, don't ever be lulled into a false sense of security. Common sense often goes out the window behind the apparent safety of a computer screen. Add instant communication and emotions to the mix, and it is easy to forget even basic caution when firing off emails and chat messages. Before fun turns to peril, follow some safety precaution tips that will minimize risks in online matchmaking.
Guard personal information
Personal information does not just include the obvious like phone numbers and addresses. Your place of work can also be used to track you down. To avoid this in both your publicly viewable matchmaking profile and email correspondence, give your job title without revealing the name of your company. Discuss your career and job duties only in generic terms.
Beware of giving unintentional data
Take care when choosing email handles and creating signature lines. Even better, omit the signature and 'reply to' fields completely. It is a good idea to create a separate, anonymous email account with a host like YahooR or GoogleR to use for online dating purposes.
Do not use any handles in your email address or matchmaking profile that attract the wrong kind of attention. Handles or nicknames that include 'hot,' or even seemingly innocent ones like 'pretty girl,' are magnets for unsuitable contacts. Also avoid raising the freak flag for undesirables by using words that could have an inappropriate undertone.
What you see may not be what you get
While incomplete profiles with poor spelling and sleazy pictures raise an obvious red flag, even people who look clean-cut and professional may not be what they seem. Photos may be outdated and the profile information false or, at the very least, misleading. People tend to put their best foot forward on matchmaking sites, sometimes to the point of deception.
Of course this does not mean everyone is a creep or stalker, and the odds of meeting a genuine person online are the same as they are out in the real world. The difference is that it's easier to put out a false, projected image online, so the getting-to-know-each-other process is critical and should take a little longer.
Meeting face to face
When meeting someone in person for the first time, observe additional safety tips. Tell friends and family where you are going, the time you're meeting and how long you plan to be gone. Meet in a public place, and drive yourself there and back. Do not leave anything that contains personal information unattended while on the date. It's also wise to arrange a time midway through the planned date to check in with a friend or family member so someone in the world can be sure nothing is amiss.