Online Romance
Credit: Don Hankins on Flickr/CC by 2.0 with Attribution

Over the last decade the dating game has experienced significant transformations. Before the Internet became “standardized”, meeting a person you’ve been chatting with online was almost considered taboo. However, as society became more comfortable with the idea of the Internet, and the web became more integrated into daily living, meeting potential dates online has become widely accepted in modern society.

Several online dating sites have cropped up over the years and have become mainstream ways people meet one another. According to Statistic Brain statistics (research date March 18, 2015), 41,250,000 people in the United States have tried online dating.  Many will develop relationships or try dating different people. (Side note: This is a booming industry, statistics indicate revenue of $1,249,000,000 is generated annually). 1

That being said, while online dating is more accepted these days, there are still many safety precautions that should be taken when meeting an online acquaintance in person. While there is a very good chance the person is a decent person, but you just never know, the person could be misrepresenting him or herself.

As the old adage says, “It is better to be safe than sorry.” This is generally a good rule of thumb to follow when considering taking an online relationship, or one that developed from a dating website, to a more personal level.

Here are a few tips for some safety precautions to take before meeting someone in person:

Let Your Fingers Do the Walking…

….Right to the nearest keyboard. The first thing you want to do is search out your new friend online and see what comes up. If he or she is an honest person, it should be pretty easy to see whether or not he or she is as claimed; most people today have some sort of digital footprint on the web. Usually social media is a good indicator, but remember, profiles and accounts can be falsified too.

Check into LinkedIn and other forms of an online presence. While this is not a guarantee, there is a strong probability you can find out a lot about your date prior to agreeing to a face-to-face meeting.

Verify Personal Information Shared

Use online searches, social media and other ways to connect online to verify the person has been telling the truth. If he or she says she works at a particular place, verify that place of employment and/or position exists. Check to see if his or her home address and/or other details shared match what searches pull up. Look your potential date up on online phone books. With so much information being streamed online today, liars can often be exposed easily. Yes, this may feel a bit like stalking, but safety is important, as the saying goes, "trust, but verify."

Telephone and Video Calls

Prior to a face-to-face meeting, it is a good idea to speak live, either on the phone or through an online video chat (such as Skype) so you can speak in real time. Do this a few times. You can really get to know a lot about someone by listening to the way he or she talks and how his or her tone sounds. You can also gauge a lot through your online friend’s surroundings. Does he or she appear secretive and hiding when you chat? (i.e. hiding from a spouse) Or does something just not “feel right”? If so, listen to your gut, it often knows what its talking about.

When talking there is no delete or backspace button and, if any warning signs come out, they will be likely to occur during a phone call rather than an email, text, chat or instant message. This is a reason why trying a live chat might be beneficial. Be careful about giving your phone number though, as your home address can be easily traced these days. A mobile phone is probably better.

Boston Terrier Dating Online
Credit: Don Hankins on Flickr/CC by 2.0 with Attribution

Meet in a Public Place

If after a thorough search and verification everything seems to check out, you are comfortable talking on the phone, and things about your potential date look on the up and up, you're in a better position to consider an in-person meeting. As plans to meet are being made, never agree to a date in a private space, instead arrange the date to be in a public place, preferably one where lots of people frequent at any given time. Even the seemingly nicest people can be truthful about their identity and then hide dark personality traits

Like any other relationship, until trust is established, you never know who a person truly is. In the case of meeting someone online, the computer screen could easily be masking a person with undesirable traits or worse. Play it safe and meet in a public place to feel the date out.

Looking for love
Credit: Alan Cleaver on Flickr/CC by 2.0 with Attribution

Online dating can be a luck of the draw. Many people make successful matches, however, safety should always come first. Not everyone is as they seem.

Tell a Friend

Once a confirmed date is made with a person you’ve met online, always tell someone where you are going and who you are meeting. Be sure to keep your phone with you and turned on, so your friend can check in or you can make a quick call, if necessary. This is just an extra precautionary step in case things do not work out, not to mention you can have someone able to bail you out if the date does not go well.

Keep it Casual

In addition to meeting in a public place, it is always a good idea to keep to a casual date. A first date should be laid back and, by keeping it light, there are no expectations. It is easier to bail out on the meeting if the person is not all you'd perceived from online interactions. Another way to keep things light and casual is to see if you can double date or meet with a group of friends combined with acquaintances of the two of you.

Dating online can be fun, but it is always a good idea to instill extra precautionary measures to be on the safe side. After the first date, if things go well, it is still a good idea to remain cautious until you really get to know the person well.