How to safely meet a person you met online

In the early days of the internet, it was common advice to never meet someone in person that you'd only met online. These days, it's much more common—but you should still take a few precautions.

More often than not, if you're meeting someone you've only ever talked to online for the first time, it falls into one of two categories. Either it's a social call (like a date or a party), or a casual business deal (such as selling a laptop on Craigslist). In most cases, the tips here will cover both, but always be careful to take precautions for your specific scenario.

Vet Them Before You Offer to Meet

Traditional wisdom says that you should give out as little information about yourself as possible when meeting someone online. Ironically, your first goal when meeting someone else is to find out as much of that information they shouldn't be sharing online as you can. You should always be careful sharing info online, but if you're going to anyway, focus on finding safe places to contact people.

For starters, if you have the choice, try meeting people on sites that vet their users. In dating situations, sites like OKCupid have extensive profiles. These can be faked, but a convincing and thorough false profile can take a lot of work. Additionally, some services like Let's Date allow users to connect their Facebook profile, which provides some extra information.

Flex your green thumb
Perfect for smaller backyards that couldn’t otherwise accommodate an industrial greenhouse.

Don't just let profiles speak for themselves, though. You can find out a lot about a person yourself just by searching online. You don't have to track down every habit they have or ruin all the first-date questions. However, the "Will I survive this encounter with all my parts intact?" question should be settled before you step out the door.

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For the non-dating crowd, playing it close to the vest is more important. Use disposable email addresses and phone numbers to keep your point of contacts private once your transaction is completed. You can also use Google Voice to easily screen numbers . If you're already a GV user, this won't help much, but if not, it's easily one of the most versatile discrete phone numbers you can get.

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Perhaps most importantly, talk on the phone first. Not everyone enjoys phone calls, but you should have at least one or two conversations that aren't over text-based mediums. If the person you're talking to says they're a 20-year-old woman, but they're really a 45-year-old man, that will be a lot harder to hide on a phone call.

Plan Your Entire Encounter

Once you've done your diligence in finding out who the person is and what concerns you should have, set up a meeting plan. Don't just choose one well-lit, public location to meet at. Choose several. If it's a date or a social gathering, you may want to leave your initial spot and go somewhere else. If you're meeting someone to sell or trade something, they may run into trouble finding the place you agreed on. In both cases, knowing several other safe backup locations can help.

Before you head out, set up your smartphone to share your location with your friends or family. Apps like Moby can let those you trust see where you are at all times. Taking someone with you is better, particularly if you're dealing with something like a Craigslist sale, but let's be real. You're not going to bring two friends on your first date with someone you met online. In that case, use the virtual buddy system to ensure someone has your back.

Moby's Private Location Sharing App Released for Android

Android/iOS/Blackberry: Private location sharing app Moby has been available for Blackberry and iOS

How you pay for the outing varies by situation. If you're going on a date (or going out in general), carrying as little cash as possible can limit any losses if someone tries to steal from you . Credit cards can be canceled and in the event of theft, you can report charges as fraudulent.

What to Do If You Lose Your Wallet

Losing a wallet can be nerve-racking, but having a plan for replacing the contents of your wallet…

However, if you're buying something from an individual, chances are they want cash. In that case, only bring the amount you're offering. If you want to give yourself some wiggle room for haggling, keep your extra money separate . Not only will it help prevent theft, but the seller will be more likely to work with you if they don't see you rifling through a stack of Benjamins for that three fifty you're going to pay them.

It's also worth noting that Craigslist introduces some problems if you're dealing with stuff you can't sell in a public place. As we've discussed before , if you have to invite someone to your home, leave your front door open and meet the person in the parking lot if you're in an apartment complex.

Have an Exit Strategy

The counterpart to planning ahead for your outing is planning how you'll get out of it. For brief business meetups, the entire affair is fairly simple: exchange your goods and be on your way. For friendly or romantic encounters, it can get more complicated with changed venues and extended visits.

Don't get in a vehicle with someone you don't know you can trust. If things go south, you want to be able to physically get away from someone as fast as is reasonably possible. You can't do that if you need a ride from them.

If possible, you should also set up a safe zone that your friends or family can meet you at nearby. You may not want to take your friends out on your date, but there's no reason they can't be having dinner at the restaurant across the street. If you need an out, they're only a text message away.

While your plans will be much less involved while dealing with Craigslist buyers, there are still certain things you should avoid. Don't stray from your meeting place. If you're trading goods, there's no reason to go anywhere. If you're performing a service such as cleaning or babysitting, you may not be able to avoid going to someone's home, but do a background check before you do.

Meeting people online can be dangerous, but it's also a more common occurrence than it has been in the past. In this way, it's not much different from driving a car. We all accept that there's a risk that something could go wrong, but that doesn't stop us from trying. Just put on your metaphorical seat belt and watch out for that one asshole doing 80 in a 35.

For the most part, meeting a cyber-buddy for the first time can be a relatively safe experience, providing that you use the proper precautions.

Having said that, there are a few guidelines that I’d recommend when meeting an online friend for the first time:

  • Get a phone number and call to verify it’s legitimate.
  • Always meet in a well lit, public place in a safe neighborhood.
  • Make sure others know who you are meeting and where the meeting is.
  • Don’t meet people alone; if possible take another friend along.

Here are some additional guidelines from a dating service:

My Recent Vacation in Florida

Admittedly, my wife and I have met a few folks from the Internet. Most of the people we tend to meet are through IRC (Internet Relay Chat). In fact, we recently met up with Bill Webb for the first time while we were on vacation in Florida.

I can tell you that my wife and I had an absolutely fantastic time meeting Bill. He took us on a tour of the Wakodahatchee Wetlands, and showed us some birds and wildlife that we may have never seen in our own country.

Here’s what Bill had to say about our rendezvous:

” Many of us spend so much time on the Web interacting with other Webizens that we have cyber-friendships with folks we’ve never met. I’ve been here at Backwash for over four years, and written hundreds of columns under this and other personae. I’ve interacted with many of the folks on this site so often, for so long, that I feel as though I know them — and yet I’ve never laid eyes on a single one . That’s why it was so delightful to actually meet, this weekend, one of my online friends face to face . “

Read the rest of Bill’s article and take a look at his beautiful pictures of our tour!

Unfortunately, the internet is a virtual playground for scam artists and those looking to take advantage of the vulnerable. It is very easy to connect with someone online and the appeal of meeting potentially hundreds of singles is impossible to ignore. However, be cautious when meeting someone online for the following reasons:

  1. You can never be 100% certain of who is on the other end of the conversation. I can post a picture of Heidi Klum and pretend that it’s me. I can also be a 12-year-old boy or 80-year-old woman if I want to (neither of which I am). I can be any character that I want and you will never know until you meet me.
  2. It’s easy to be vulnerable. When you are talking to someone over the internet, conversation can flow easily. Late night communication and convenient instant messaging make it easy to divulge your deepest, darkest secrets. Never ever give out personal information that can come back to haunt you such as your street address, social security number or where you work. This goes without saying, but it is far too easy to feel comfortable spilling your secrets to a seemingly anonymous chat box.
  3. It’s even easier to fall head over heels. In a virtual dating scenario, your attraction is going to be largely based on what you imagine the person to be. They can tell you their height, weight, hair color and age, but you can concoct up a completely different image in your head…even if they send you a picture. Case in point: a friend of mine met a fellow off of the internet after talking to him on the phone for weeks and even seeing his picture. She told me that he could be “the one”. He was sweet, sensitive, intelligent and attractive. When she went to meet him, it turned out that the picture was from 10 years (and 50 pounds) ago and her “dream guy” chewed food with his mouth open. She was devastated.
  4. There is no pre-screening. Let’s face it: anyone with internet access can open up a dating profile. When we meet people through other means – at school, through friends or at work – we have at least some way of ensuring that they are genuine. For example, your friend can set you up with another friend and you will already know all sorts about your potential date. You may even be privy to information about your date’s previous relationships.

When you don’t have any of this information, you are left to your own devices. Internet searches can only take you so far. If you have been chatting online with someone for months and are finally getting ready to meet them there are certain precautions you should take. For example, you might want to know that your potential “perfect match” has not been convicted of any crimes. Subtly, get the first and last name of the person you are chatting with. Throughout your various conversations, gather other pieces of information such as their home town, where they were born and how old they are.

You can start by conducting your own research. If your internet search turns up nothing, it’s time to seek the assistance of private investigators. You can never be too cautious when it comes to your personal safety. If your Private Investigator cannot find any data on the person you are hoping to meet off of the internet this is a huge red flag. Instead of proceeding any further, cut your losses and move on to the next eligible single. Not everyone is online to scam you, but be smart about who you let into your life.

How to safely meet a person you met online

It seems like you have found the perfect partner. You met them online, and what they have shared with you about themselves makes you trust them on a deeper level. They might be halfway across the globe from you, but somehow you feel like you might actually be falling…in….love with them. Wait, what? Before you allow yourself to get overly attached to this person, you have to make sure that they are “the real deal”.

In a study done in 2013, 35% of married couples met online. This is great, and this might restore a little trust in humanity and make you rethink the idea that everyone out there is “out to get you”. More and more people are using internet dating sites in the hope of finding the love of their life.

But on that same note, more and more cyber cons are showing up all over the place and it’s becoming hard to tell the difference between a real person and just another scammer online. Falling for “the one” online only to find out that they really aren’t all they sketched themselves up to be, isn’t only heart-breaking, it also damages you and makes you seriously skeptical about future encounters.

5 Ways to Know If Someone You Met Online is a Fraud

So, to get back to the real business, here are some red flags that you need to be on the lookout for when you want to establish if they’re a fraud or not:

1. It’s in the way they describe themselves in their profile and the pic itself

Seriously, you just need to take a closer look. What do they describe themselves as? Their physical description of themselves should be rational. An athlete with a “plush” body, really? The best way to establish if they really look like what they say they do is to ask them to send you a picture where they’re holding a specific item, or even something that is hand written, close to their body. The other thing that should be setting off alarms is professional photos used for profile pics, unless off course they really are a model. A seriously cool tool to use is Google Goggles, where you can see if the photo they sent you has been used anywhere else online. If they’re using someone else’s pictures and posting them as their own, the warning bells should be very loud by now.

2. Their profile seems a little “cut and pasty”

Try using plagiarism scanners to see if his “introduction letter” online has been used anywhere else or by anyone else. You should be able to spot a phony immediately based on this. A real person, with honest to goodness intentions would be strong enough to set up their own letter and really allow users to get a peek into their life and what they’re all about. It obviously goes without saying that their grammar and spelling should also be good. Loads of scammers give themselves away here. Open your eyes and actually READ what they have to say.

3. They want to go IM ASAP

If they’re trying to get you off the dating site and on to email or personal instant messaging right from the word go, you should be worrying. Sure they might seem legit, but do yourself a favor and create a different email address exclusively for use in the online dating world, where they won’t be able to get a hold of any of your personal details if you don’t want them to have it. You should also be worrying if they’re saying they love you way at the start of things. The scammers out there are often out to get you emotionally overwhelmed. They’ll tell you whatever you need to hear in order to sneak their way into our life.

4. They’re not on Facebook

Sorry, but if they can go through the length of creating an online dating profile, the heck, they can surely create a Facebook profile. We live in a world were just about anyone who’s anyone makes use of this social media platform. If grandmothers can use it, they sure can. Once you have established that they have a Facebook account, snoop around over there too! Facebook says a whole lot about a person. Do yourself a favor and have a look at things such as the date they created their profile. If they did it as in yesterday, RED FLAG! Also take a look at the pictures, and their friends. Pretty much the same goes for twitter, although not everyone uses twitter. Google search them. Just do it. You won’t regret it. Just don’t go borderline cyber stalker here!

5. They ask for Cash

Oh hell no, you surely aren’t an ATM and the fact that they even considered to ask you for money should be having you running for the hills. Or at least in the online world, blocking and disabling them, and then reporting them. Sympathy scams are everywhere to be found these days and the victims are usually regular people like me and you, and the sad fact is that some of them honestly succeed with this trick because the poor victim is too smitten to even realize what’s going on.

Sadly, our modern culture has created a world where some people often feel the need to create a fake persona just to get a taste of what a real relationship could feel like, because they don’t see themselves as worthy of getting a real girlfriend or boyfriend. It’s a terrible reality, and what’s worse is the fact that they have perfectly innocent REAL people falling for their fake personalities in a bid to try and get whatever they can have.

Unfortunately even some of the smartest people tend to lose their common sense when the idea of romance and even love comes to light. If two or more of the Red Flags that we talked about here applies to your internet beau, then sadly, its time you considered the fact that he might not be real at all.

Many people wrongly assume that using an online dating service is the equivalent of throwing in the towel and screaming, “All right already, I’ll do it – I’m desperate!” Actually, online dating is not for the desperate. In fact, research shows that more than 40 million Americans (40 percent of all singles) use online dating services. It has become a very successful way to meet that someone special.

These days you’re in the minority if you don’t know at least one person who met their current husband, wife or partner on an online dating site. According to a recent Match.com survey, one in five people in a new committed relationship and one in six couples married during the last three years met their significant other using an online dating service. Last year alone, twice as many marriages occurred between men and women who met online than took place among couples who met in bars, clubs and at other social events combined.

If you’ve been considering taking the plunge into Internet dating but aren’t quite sure how to get started, here are my nine key tips to ensure that your experience is a positive, safe and successful one.

• Tip #1: If you’re not familiar with technology or unsure what to write on your profile, ask a younger friend, relative or co-worker to help you. Don’t let a lack of familiarity keep you from participating in online dating. Chances are excellent that someone you know already knows the ropes and would be willing to help coach you. Most online dating sites also offer tips to help you get started.

• Tip #2: Be completely honest in your profile and photo. You don’t want to lie about your age, your background or your personality. Not everyone will take this advice, but you don’t want to start a relationship on a lie, and somewhere down the road, others will know that you aren’t what you say you are (or you don’t look like your photo).

• Tip #3: Many online dating sites are tailored to specific interests. These days, there are dating sites for every type of person and interest. For example, BlackPeopleMeet.com appeals to individuals looking for a partner based on racial preference; JDate is a popular place to go for Jewish singles. Others, like SeniorPeopleMeet.com, appeal to people over 50. Browse the Internet and ask your friends: There’s bound to be an online dating site that’s right for you.

• Tip #4: Protect your identity and anonymity. You wouldn’t give personal information out to a stranger over the telephone, so why would you do so over the Internet? It is best to use your first name only during initial conversations and provide more detailed personal information only after you’ve met in person and gotten to know one another well. Legitimate online daters will understand the reasons for doing this and will be doing the same themselves. Also, when you decide to give someone your phone number online, use your cell, rather than your home or work phone. If things don’t work out, cell phone numbers are much easier to change.

• Tip #5: Never provide your last name, address, or other personal or financial information to a person you have not met. And never, under any circumstances, give money to someone you don’t know well and have not met in person. This applies to anyone you meet online, regardless of whether it is within the confines of an Internet dating or other site. Beware of any potential partner who asks you directly for cash, or to cash a money order or check.

• Tip #6: Take your time getting to know someone on-line. Studies show that relationships develop faster online. My advice is to wait at least one week before you meet face-to-face. And, before you meet in person, move the conversation from online to phone. During a phone chat you’ll get a better sense of whether your personalities click. Also, by taking it slow, you are more likely to see inconsistencies in their behaviors and actions.

• Tip #7: When you are ready to meet, arrange to do so in a busy public place, like a coffee shop, bookstore or other retail outlet. Don’t have your date pick you up or drive you home. It’s a good idea to let someone else know your plans, where you’re going, what time, and your date’s name. You can even have a friend drop you off and pick you up from this first in-person meeting. Keep your initial meeting short and if you like the person, there’s always time later for a longer date!

• Tip #8: Listen to your gut. Online dating is a great way to find people with common interests; however, building a relationship takes time and attention. Look for consistency in behaviors and answers to your questions. Pay attention to early warning signs that someone might not be legitimate or might not be presenting themselves honestly. For example, does he want to know all about you, but seems disinterested or vague in sharing details of his life? Is the telephone number she provides out of service, or is it unable to accept messages for days? Does he or she profess love or devotion within a matter of hours or days? Is he never able to meet you in person, because he is always out of the country?

• Tip #9: Don’t be talked into any action that is not in your best interest. Think before you act. As with anything you do on the Internet, an ounce of prevention is truly worth a pound of cure.

Online dating can be a wonderful way to meet someone special with whom to share your life. Taking the time to do it well and protect yourself is a matter of common sense and the best way to ensure that your online dating experience is safe, satisfying, and successful.

How to safely meet a person you met online

Photo by Dariusz Sankowski

So you’re finally meeting that special someone in person, after talking to them for quite a while online. While it sure sounds exciting, at the same time, it can be nerve-racking. You get excited that you’ll finally be able to see them in the flesh and somehow scared that they might be different from how they portrayed themselves online or how you imagine them to be.

Well, being on your first date is a fun experience and it can determine whether it’s still a good idea to continue your relationship or not.

Here are some tips that you can use in order to ensure a successful first date with someone you met online:

1. Don’t expect too much.
Sometimes you tend to create a perfect picture of that person you met online – don’t. You’ll just disappoint yourself if your expectations are not met. It’s your first date so you still have many things to discover about each other. Avoid assuming according to your expectations. Set aside your personal judgment and assumptions because it is unfair to your date.

2. Choose the venue for your first date.
Choosing the venue where you should meet for the first time is an advantage because you can pick a place that you’re comfortable with. Have your date at your favorite restaurant, café or the museum. This way, you can relax because you are familiar with the place – but make sure that your date agrees with your choice, too.

3. Dress comfortably.
One of the things you have to consider when preparing for your date is your attire. How you dress will affect how your date sees you. Of course, you shouldn’t change the way you dress or your style for other people. Any kind of clothing is fine as long as you are confident in it and you’re comfortable. Don’t risk your comfort just because you want to impress your date.

4. Inform someone about your date.
Your safety is very important. Even though you trust your date , it’s still best if you let another person know about your whereabouts just in case something unexpected happens. You don’t fully know this person so it’s best to be cautious.

This doesn’t mean that you’re betraying the trust of your date. This is just a precautionary measure that everyone should actually do whenever they go with someone who is practically a stranger.

5. Don’t be late.
As much as possible, avoid being late on your first date. This will give your date a bad impression of you. Tardiness can be interpreted as being irresponsible. If you promised to be there by eight in the evening, be there on time or better yet, be there earlier. But don’t go there too early because your date might think that you’re too eager.

6. Respect your differences.
You might find differences between you and your date once you meet in person. You have to understand that you have different experiences and preferences. Thus, how you process and see things will most likely be different.

Respect who and what they are and also learn to adjust. Don’t let these differences ruin your wonderful time together.

7. Have fun.
Don’t forget that you’re on a date and you’re supposed to have fun. If you’re feeling nervous and anxious, calm yourself. Do your best to enjoy the special moment because the person whom you were always talking to for a while is now in front of you. This date is special since it’s your first. Enjoy it.

8. Be yourself.
Of course, you might want to impress your date by telling them that you like what they like and what they’re interested in. However, this will only create future problems especially if they find out the truth.

Just act how you usually act and don’t pretend to be who you’re not. If your date doesn’t like how you laugh or doesn’t understand your humor, you shouldn’t worry about that. Be true to yourself and if your date doesn’t like it, it’s not your fault.

9. Speak your mind.
You have to say what is in your mind so that you’ll know each other better – as long as you’re not being rude or disrespectful. Remember that this is your first meeting after talking to each other online. This is your chance to get to know each other more so it won’t help if you won’t communicate well.

Don’t be afraid that your date won’t like you anymore if you disagree with their opinions or if you don’t like the same food. Again, be true to yourself.

10. Avoid inappropriate topics.
Yes, you have to be conversant when you’re on a date because this will show that you’re interested in them. However, you also have to be mindful of the topics you choose to talk about. If you know that you’re date doesn’t want to talk about religion, politics, or family matters, respect it.

Also, if you unintentionally said or commented on something you shouldn’t have, apologize immediately.

11. Be present.
A lot of people nowadays don’t pay attention to their dates because they are busy with their phones. When you’re with your date, make sure that you give them your full attention. Listen to their stories, ask questions and share your own stories.

Show interest when they are telling you about something, no matter how boring you think it is. You are on a date so your focus should only be given to them.

12. Say thank you.
Don’t forget to say thank you to your date before you part ways. Show them that you’re grateful for the time they had given you. Tell them that you had a great time with them. This will not only make them happy but will also boost their confidence.

Hearing a simple “thank you” from someone is always better than nothing.

Taking the risk by going on a date with someone you met online can be exciting but you also have to make sure that you are ready to meet that person. Ask yourself if it’s the right time to finally see each other or if you still need more opportunities to get to know them.

Make all the necessary preparations. Are you emotionally and physically ready for that date? It can make you feel anxious but remember to just have fun. Good luck!

Every online dater knows the feeling of wanting more information about a potential suitor.

Maybe a person seems great – strong job, killer photos, fun vibe – but his or her answers to profile questions are sparse. Or you just want to know a tad bit more about what position he holds at that prestigious company or whether there are any other pictures out there for you to drool over before you meet.

Perhaps something seems a little off, and you don’t exactly trust what he is telling you. So you want to do a little detective work. Or you’ve had the experience of meeting a guy who is 20 pounds heavier, 10 years older, and much more bald than he let on. Understandably, you don’t want to go through that again.

These are all normal feelings, says Laurie Davis, the Founder & CEO of eFlirt Expert, an online dating consultancy. “They’ve already led with information, not chemistry, so they want more of it.”

With Davis’s help I put together a list of the best ways to research someone you meet online (and the times you should lay off the digital stalking altogether.)

Before a first date, the best research is no research. While Davis is a huge proponent of checking out online matches, she says it can be detrimental to do too much (or any) digging before a first date. The main reason is that information can cloud your judgment about a person. Say, I’ve looked up someone, and he went to the perfect school, holds a great position in a firm, comes from a wealthy, stable family? Maybe I’ll try and like him more on our first date even if the chemistry isn’t there? “You really should allow the person you are meeting make their own first impression,” says Davis.

Another reason not to research is it can make you too vested in and excited about a person you don’t even know if you like yet! As Davis says, “It’s getting a bit ahead of yourself to get that information before you meet, especially women because they have a tendency to overthink things ahead of time.”

Read between the lines of a profile. Before you turn to Google and Facebook to check out your potential suitor, try looking harder at his or her online profile. There are a few inside tricks to use, says Davis. If their relationship intentions are foggy, meaning they say something along the lines of “Let’s see what happens,” it probably means they aren’t looking for something serious. If their photos are grainy, if they are wearing hats and sunglasses in every photo, or if every photo looks different, they are trying to disguise themselves or not portray themselves authentically. Another warning sign is if I person doesn’t use “I statements.” That means “they are usually lying,” says Davis.

Get more out of your online correspondence. We all know the suitors who don’t give away that much in their profiles; the people who write, “I’m fun, funny, and love to travel” in their “About Me” section. Davis suggests overcoming this shortage of information by writing someone a substantial message. “We mirror one another when we like each other,” she explains. “So if I touch my neck, if he likes me he might touch his chest. He does a similar movement. And we do the same thing with each other digitally. If you write four sentences, he might write four sentences also.”

Turn to Google, Facebook, and LinkedIn . So you’ve already gotten everything out of your first date and online correspondence? You can now turn to outside resources, says Davis. Facebook and LinkedIn are great ways to verify basic information about someone: where they went to school, their job, whether their photos are up to date, any potential friends. (I personally won’t agree to a date with anyone until I’ve verified his information from two or three sources) To take it one step further use Google – “I mean, you can find the deed to someone’s house by Googling,” says Davis.

But Davis urges caution, especially when using Google or the testimonials of mutual friends. For example, I know a girl who just married a guy who mutual friends called a big player. Well, he was a player until he met her and fell in love. Or Davis uses the example of calling someone an alcoholic. Maybe friends think he is an alcoholic but in reality, he just drinks more than them. “If something comes up,” says Davis. “It’s better to make it a note to self and not freak out about it until you are in a comfortable place where you can discuss it.”

No news is bad news. If you’ve spent hours researching someone online and you don’t find anything, be worried, says Davis. “The biggest red flag of all is no information.” She gives the example of one of her clients who was quite a wealthy man. He was dating this girl who had no digital footprint whatsoever and became concerned she was making up her identity (maybe she was a gold digger?) He ended up confronting her about it and having her scan her driver’s license. While some might see this as an overreaction, it gave him peace of mind and the option to continue developing a relationship.

Remember that your potential dates are digitally stalking you also. Davis had a client who was bisexual, had been previously married to a woman, and now wanted to date men. While this is information that usually wouldn’t come up in a first or second date, when you Googled her the first item that appeared was the New York Times wedding announcement. Davis and the woman talked about the issue and decided she would need to bring up her history faster than she might be comfortable with otherwise. “What is available about you needs to alter conversations you have with your date,” says Davis.

Even with all the information in the world, trust your gut. While online daters are lucky to have so much information than daters in the past, the facts about matches – their job, their family members, even their stated values – don’t determine whether or not they are your match. “I think at some point you need to trust the dynamic,” says Davis. “While we have access to all this information, what ultimately matters in this relationship is the way you interact with one another. So if you focus too much on your research you miss out on all of those moments, and that’s really what builds a relationship.”

If you spend much of your time online, you should know that you are not alone. It is estimated that the average Briton spends around 24 hours each week on their smartphone or a similar device. Therefore, it makes sense that most people would start looking for friendships online as well.

Now, if this is something you are considering, there will be many likeminded people who have the same idea. However, much like online dating, you do need to be safe when making friends on the internet. After all, since you don’t know them well, there is no telling what they are capable of.

The good news for you, though, is that there are ways to make friends online while also keeping yourself protected. These are the top tips that you can follow to ensure this:

Select the right apps

There are more and more “friend” apps than ever before. These are specifically designed for people who are looking for friendship, without any romantic entanglements. Despite this, not all these apps are created equal. Some are safer than others.

So, how can you discern the good apps from the more lax ones? Well, to start with, consider the verification measures each app takes. For instance, there are some well-known apps like Bumble BFF that use a Facebook account to verify that people are actually who they say they are.

In short, you should stick with apps that go to additional lengths to make sure that only legitimate members join up. This will considerably increase your chances of being safe with your new friends. Another thing you may want to try is to focus on apps that allow you to find people of the same gender as you. This is especially important for women who would feel more comfortable with other ladies.

Limit your personal info

If you are using an app to find friends, you will often discover that you are required to write a short bio. This gives potential pals some idea of what you are like or, at the very least, what your interests are. Now, in these sections, it is best not to go overboard with information. Stick to vague basics such as “I like to read” or “I would like to meet people who are interested in music”.

This is a tactic that you should hold onto even after you have started chatting with someone. It is best to avoid any mention of your specific location, where you go to work, and more. Remember, especially in the early stages, that you have no idea what kind of person you are talking to. So, it is best to err on the side of caution.

You should also be mindful about the type of questions your online friends ask you. Are they run of the mill queries or do they seem overly personal? If it falls into the latter section, then you may want to take a break from that online friendship, at least for a while.

Do the appropriate research

Don’t wait too long to figure out who your friend really is. If you find this person interesting and would like to continue chatting with them, you need to do a little background search. Don’t worry, you won’t need to take any drastic steps.

Rather, you can complete a free people search online using basic information such as their name and age. This way, you will know whether this individual is dangerous or if all the information they have provided to you is accurate.

At the very least, you should do some kind of digging online. One popular method of doing this is by checking out social media profiles. These are often a goldmine of information and you can get a feel for what your new friend is like. Furthermore, you will actually be able to determine whether this person is legitimate or not.

Not to mention, by viewing images and posts, you can discern whether they have been completely honest with you about their lives. After all, if someone has told you that they are single but they are actually married with children, you will need to know the truth.

Trust your instincts

This may seem like a rather old-fashioned sentiment but it is important, even in the digital age. When you are chatting with someone, make it a point to trust what that little voice is telling you. Keep in mind, your subconscious may be picking up warning signs that you may not be aware of just yet.

So, if you have been speaking to someone for a while and you feel a sense of unease, there is probably a reason for this. In such a situation, you may discover that it is best for you to cut off all contact with that person, especially if that feeling continues to bother you.

Meet your “friend” in a public place

This is advice that has been repeated to online daters but it is important for friend meet-ups to take place in public spots as well. Once again, you can’t completely trust someone that you haven’t actually met before. So, if you do decide that it is time to meet one another, then you should set up the spot at a busy bar, restaurant, or café.

Someone who only has good intentions will certainly not object to these terms and will comply with your meeting spot. Once you have met, you should continue to remain in public areas. Try to avoid getting into vehicles or going to somewhere you are unfamiliar with.

If you don’t mind taking additional precautions, invite a friend or two along. You can also ask your online friend to bring someone with them as well and make it a group meet up. Remember, there is safety in numbers.

These are the top tips to follow if you want to make new friends but also remain safe at the same time. With these tactics, you are sure to keep yourself protected while also meeting wonderful new people.