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Safety first! How to be a smart online dater

In an interview recently with a company that performs background checks, I was asked several questions about online dating safety that I thought I would share:

Q: Are there certain facts I should know about a date before meeting in person?

Make sure you have his or her phone number in case one of you is running late or cannot find the other person for some reason. And always meet in a public place, such as a bar or a coffee shop.

Q: What are the potential consequences of not knowing who your date is? Any stories that relate?

Going on any date, whether you met online or not, has its inherent risks — someone is not who they say, they don't look like their pictures, etc. When it comes down to it, you just have to use common sense. If you get the sense that someone isn't who he (or she) says he is, then leave the date. You have no obligation to stay.

Q: Are there warning signs I can look out for both online and when meeting in person?

Go with your gut. If someone you're emailing gives you that "weird" feeling, you are not required to continue communicating.

Q: How does online dating safety compare to more traditional offline dating?

I actually think it's safer. You certainly know more about the person online than you do the person you met at a bar! Again, just make sure you use common sense and meet in a public place.

Q: How much information should I disclose before meeting someone? Should I create a more favorable image of myself or just spill the beans?

Be honest and "spill the beans." Of course, you don't have to tell people everything upfront, like the the poor relationship you have with your mother, but things like children and prior marriages should always be disclosed upfront. Also, make sure your pictures are from within the past year (or more recent if you've changed your look in some major way) to ensure accuracy. Some people think that if they fib a bit in their profile, it's okay because they'll win the person over on the date. Not true. Your date will already be turned off because you've lied.

Q: What are some different methods of checking on a date both online and offline to verify they aren't a psychopath?

You can look them up on Facebook or Google them, which could be helpful. There is also a sex offender registry by state if you're concerned. (But if you're that concerned, should you be going out with this person in the first place?) Again, using your gut and asking yourself questions like, "Are the emails nice and normal?" and "Is there anything that rubs me the wrong way?" will be the best option. You can also tell a friend where you're going if that makes you feel more comfortable.

While it's, of course, important to vet your dates, try not to go too crazy so that you never go out on a date at all!

Erika Ettin is the founder of A Little Nudge, an online dating advice site.

Safety first! How to be a smart online dater 05/26/14 [Last modified: Monday, May 26, 2014 6:20pm]
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