The internet has created a whole new way of dating. There are hundreds of dating sites and social networking sites available for those searching for a spouse, but the internet can also be a dangerous place to meet someone if you aren’t careful. The following online dating safety tips will help you make sure that the person you are chatting with is someone you can safely date.

Online Dating Safety: Choosing Dating Sites

The first step in online dating safety is to choose a safe, reputable dating site. There are hundreds of dating sites to choose from, most of which are reliable sites, but there are some that may charge you excessive fees and do not do a thorough check on the clients who sign up with the site. Research any site you are considering joining by checking with the Better Business Bureau or other trustworthy companies that provide information about websites. Carefully read all information contained on the website, including the terms and conditions and if it is a paid website, the billing requirements.

Online Dating Safety: Start Out Slowly

It is best to not release your identity right away. Take a couple of days to read through the profiles of other members of the website and always trust your instinct. If a site looks too good to be true, has hundreds of perfect members, and has perfect feedback from other members, it may be too good to be true, so trust your instincts. When reading profiles, if something doesn’t look right or you are uncomfortable reading, either skip to the next profile or find a new website.

Online Dating Safety: Do Not Give out Personal Information

One of the most important online dating safety tips is to never provide personal information right away. If you are online searching for a suitable date, you should talk to the person for a long period of time before releasing any information, including your phone number. It is best to use a different name for your profile, while you are in a chat room and if you are instant messaging. Choose an online name that cannot be linked to your real name and never give someone you haven’t personally met your address, phone number, or email address.

Online Dating Safety: Free Email Account

An email account is a primary place for correspondence when you meet someone through an online dating site. Sign up for a new email account with a free service such as Google or yahoo. When you are emailing, do not use your full name in the subject field, the from field, or when you sign the correspondence. If you begin to get harassing emails, simply close the account. Make sure to use your “dating name” in all correspondence, such as instant messaging through your email account.

Online Dating Safety: Exchanging Photos

If you are asked to show a photo to someone you have just begun chatting with, use caution and only send a photo if you are completely comfortable with the person at the other end of the conversation. Provide only a headshot and make sure it does not have a link to any of your personal accounts attached. Always ask to see a photo and if the other person continually finds excuses to not send you a photo, it may be because they have something to hide, so again, use extreme caution. If you have gotten to the point in your “relationship” that you are considering meeting in person, always ask for a current photo, before you agree to meet, and make sure to show the photo to a friend or family member before you go to meet the person.

Online Dating Safety: Talking on the Phone

If you have become comfortable enough with someone to talk to over the telephone, never give them your home phone number. Skype is a great way to talk without using your home phone, a payphone also will not alert the person of a number that you can be reached at. If you use a cell phone and block your phone number so it doesn’t show up in caller ID, this can be done by entering *67 before dialing the number. Pay close attention to the conversation and if at any time you are uncomfortable, hang up and delete them from your email and profile tags on the dating site.

Online Dating Safety: Meeting in Person

If you have talked with the person for a while, gathered as much information as possible about their lifestyle, and are completely comfortable when talking with them, meeting in person will come up in the conversation at some point. If you agree to meet in person, never allow someone to pick you up at your home, a friend’s home, or your place of employment. Schedule a meeting during the daytime and in a public place. Always tell a friend or family member where you will be meeting your date, what they look like, and their email or URL to their dating profile. Make sure that you do not have any information with you that can be used to harm you personally or financially. For example, do not carry a bank statement, or mail with your home address, or information about your place of employment.

Online Dating Safety: Split the Bill

When you are meeting for the first time, although it is common for the male to pay the bill, it is best to pay for your portion yourself. In some situations, when someone pays for the date, they may expect something in return, so the safest way to avoid this situation is to pay your half. It is also best to not drink alcohol while you are on the first date. One drink is acceptable, but when alcohol is involved to the extreme, the date may get out of your control.

Online dating safety involves always being alert. Pay close attention to the conversations and if at any time you begin to feel uncomfortable when chatting, discontinue the online chatting and delete the person’s profile from your account. If you encounter a dangerous situation, whether online or when meeting in person, always report the person to the dating site and if at any time your financial or personal information is compromised, report the incident to your local police department.