Given that at least 20% of people are now meeting partners online, I feel compelled to share some safety tips based on the many bad experiences I have heard about.  While of course there are jerks everywhere, the problem with online dating is that there is very little accountability.  When you meet someone online that person is usually not part of your normal circle, e.g. not from your neighborhood, work, the gym, school, or church, his/her reputation isn’t really at stake.  So for your own safety, try to keep these 5 tips in mind:

1. Meet at a public place, especially the first few times.  It’s not that bad stuff doesn’t happen in front of others, but the chances are less likely that someone will act inappropriately in public.

2. Have an exit plan.  Always make sure you have a credit card or enough cash to at least pay for your own drinks & meal, plus a ride home.

3.  Create an excuse to bail.  Not good at lying? Easy, I will give you a few lines you can practice: you have plans to meet or talk with a friend at a certain time.  You have an early morning meeting that you need to prepare for– or maybe you have a dog that you need to walk.  Whatever– if you are not having fun or don’t feel safe, get out.

4. Establish a check-in system.  Always tell a buddy where you are going to be if you are meeting an online stranger. This way at least someone knows where you are & hopefully that person is responsible enough to check on you later if you don’t send a text saying everything is ok.

5. Do your homework.  In this lovely modern age of technology, you can find out a lot about someone online.  I am indeed telling you to snoop– be your own PI (private investigator) and find out as much as you can about this person– school, education, work.  Check out their FB posts and go on LinkedIn to see who you are connected to, and maybe then send your common connections a message and get the 411 on this person.  Also, a lot of court records are public, so why not double check that this person claiming to be divorced really is divorced?

Pigs are out there– both male and female– and in my opinion you have to have nerves of steel to put up with sorting through some of the scum of the earth that pops up when you are dating online.  If you are not up to the task, don’t do it.  There are plenty of other ways to meet nice people– but if you want to increase your numbers, and don’t feel like destroying your liver going out for drinks all the time, online is an easy way to meet large quantities of potential candidates fast.

Several of my friends have actually married or formed committed relationships with people that they met online, and I personally know some very nice people out there, so by all means go have some fun–just be safe!

By Regina A. DeMeo, Esq.