10 rules for safe online dating

Online dating can be a great way to meet new people without the pressure of awkward social situations. Make sure you have the best possible experience by keeping these 10 rules for safe online dating in mind.

Never share personal information
Not at first, anyway. Any online dating site worth its salt will offer you a messaging system, which you can use to contact other members of the site. This means you don’t need to give out your email address, phone number or home address to set up a first meeting with someone. Keep your personal information private until you’ve got to know them and feel comfortable.

Use a free email provider
Your email address can give away a lot of information about you. If you give someone your work email address you are also likely to be giving them information such as your last name and your place of work. This information can be used to find out more about you using Facebook, Google, or even by calling your place of work and making enquiries. Using a free email service provider such as Gmail, Yahoo! Or Hotmail, and creating an email address which doesn’t contain personal information, will help to keep you safe.

Take your time
The beauty of online dating is that you get to know people at your own pace. You are never obligated to meet anyone face to face, no matter how much you’ve spoken online. Ask questions, and really spend some time getting to know the person. Once you feel comfortable over email the next step is to have a chat on the phone. Use a mobile phone rather than giving out your home or work number, as a mobile phone is harder to trace back to an address.

Meet in public
Once you have emailed back and forth, talked on the phone and you are feeling really comfortable with the other person you might decide that you want to meet up face to face. Arrange to meet somewhere casual, relaxed and full of other people. Meeting up for coffee at a café can be a great way to start. Never meet someone for the first time at a residence, a secluded spot, or somewhere difficult to get to and from.

Arrange your own transport
Drive yourself or take a taxi for the first meeting. If they offer to pick you up don’t feel you have to agree to be polite. Don’t go home with your date, invite them back to your place or accept a lift home. It can take a while to really get to know a person, so meet up a few times before you consider revealing your address.

Click NEXT to discover five more ways to stay safe while online dating, plus how to spot a scam Tell a friend
Tell someone you trust (and who will be proactive if necessary) where you are going before the first date. Give them your date’s name and number, the address where you are meeting and your arrival and departure times. You can also ask them to call you at a pre-determined time part-way through the date. If the date isn’t going well you can also use the call as an excuse to end your casual cup of coffee early.

Trust your gut
You have spent your whole life meeting and assessing people. Trust those instincts – if you are feeling uneasy or anxious don’t dismiss it. Even if there is no reason for the way you are feeling listen to yourself.

Feel free to leave the date
If you need to, leave the date. Your safety is much more important than someone’s opinion of you, particularly if you are never planning to see them again. It can be a good idea to have something planned after your date, to give you an excuse to leave. You can leave if you feel uncomfortable, unsafe, or even if there is simply no chemistry between you. Never feel obligated to stay to avoid offending the other person.

Never send money
Don’t get financially involved with someone you are just getting to know. Never send money or offer financial assistance. If someone asks you to it is probably a scam, and you should report the member to your dating site immediately.

There are lots of real people looking for real connections on online dating sites. It is important to be aware, however, that there are also those pretending to be someone else and who are looking to scam you. So for what should you look out?

Declarations of love: Be cautious if someone you are in contact with via online dating declares their love within a matter of weeks or days. The emails may be long and romantic, but think about how well you really know the person. Suggest a phone call to help you gauge the legitimacy of these emails and, if you feel uncomfortable, report it to your dating site. The dating site may know the person, or have copies of similar emails other people have received.

Requests for money: The moment someone asks you for money, whether it is to help with financial difficulty, for an emergency where the person is stranded overseas, or to help a sick relative, report it to the dating site you are using.

Some signs you may be dealing with a scammer: The person might ask you to chat outside the online dating site messaging service quite quickly. Avoid doing so, and if they break of contact don’t worry about it – they probably weren’t real. If a person vanishes from the site and reappears under a different name, it is probably because someone else has reported them as a scammer and the site has blocked them. Simply report them again.

Scammers will often talk about ‘destiny’ or ‘fate’ in an attempt to make a quick connection with you. People who claim to be recently widowed are unlikely to be rearing to go in the online dating world – be aware that they may not be real. If someone asks for your address soon after meeting them under the guise of sending you flowers or gifts do not give it to them. If you continue to feel uncomfortable report them to the site. Also be wary of anyone who makes a large number of spelling and grammar errors – it is possible they are from overseas and only claiming to be Australian.

Long distance relationships are a part of online dating, and they can work really well. Be wary of anyone who asks you to pay for a plane ticket for them to visit you. You are much better off spending the money on a ticket for yourself to visit them. That way if it turns out to be awful, you can still book into a hotel and have a holiday.