Just because he’s not standing right in front of you doesn’t mean you’re safe. We know you’ll take all the necessary precautions, but just in case, here are our key safety tips.
FIRST THINGS FIRST
‘Don’t put any personal details on your profile that could enable somebody to trace you,’ says Georgia Barlow, author of The COSMOPOLITAN Guide To Online Dating: A Practical Guide For Dating Divas (JR Books). You know what that means: no e-mail addresses, work information or contact numbers. The best (and only) way to keep in touch with a guy while dating online is to make use of the site’s custom e-mail system. ‘This enables you to communicate anonymously with fellow daters without giving away your personal details,’ says Barlow.
‘You have to meet the person face to face to be able to decide how much and what information about yourself you want to divulge,’ agrees COSMO self-defence expert, Sanette Smit.
Also, be careful about creating a misleading profile. Making yourself out to be something you’re not is more dangerous than you think. ‘By doing this, you are creating a fantasy that could lead to your attracting the wrong person,’ says Smit.
And, if anyone tries to force information out of you, you shouldn’t be entertaining the thought of dating him. Period. ‘The moment you feel uncomfortable, intimidated or suspicious about someone, report him to the site moderators,’ says Barlow.
When it actually comes to meeting up with someone, you first need to be sure about how you feel. If you are at all suspicious of him, don’t even go there. However, if he actually seems like a nice, normal guy, make sure you meet him in a public place, says Smit, preferably one that is familiar and safe to you. ‘Do not meet him in isolation.’
Barlow agrees. ‘Do not arrange to meet at his place or yours – whatever the reason.’ Never let your date pressure you into staying out, having another drink, moving on somewhere you don’t know or going back to his place, she adds.
When the day arrives (please note: day), don’t forget to take your phone (fully charged), warns Barlow. As a backup, says Smit, tell a friend where you are going and whom you are going to meet. ‘You must always have a backup.’
‘Give the details of the time you’re meeting, where you’re going and the name and number of your date to a couple of friends and have them keep an eye on their phone,’ agrees Barlow. She suggests arranging to SMS them at a certain time to let them know you’re okay.
No matter how cliché it sounds, safety comes first. Always.