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The short story is that online dating is as safe as you want it to be. All dating websites have several measures in place to keep your true identity hidden and the rest is up to you. Making good judgment and being overly cautious can help you avoid safety issues and frustration in the future.
If someone seems friendly and fun online that doesn't mean they are the same person you envision. Be "street smart" when meeting people online. If someone asks for your personal information, to send flowers or pick you up for a date, don't provide it. For the first few encounters it's best to meet your date in a public place and always drive separately. Sharing your phone number or your last name allows someone to quickly identify where you live and how to get there. Remember that if your new online friend has a problem with your approach than they simply aren't the right person for you. Safety and privacy always trumps convenience.
Use the online communication features available through your dating website to get to know any potential dates. Many of the companies offer instant messaging, email and sometimes an option to talk on the phone while still maintaining your privacy. We've seen websites that even run background checks and validate the identity of members for you.
Avoid telling a new friend where you work. Sharing too much information upfront can have huge ramifications. Outside of your personal safety, you never know who someone might know and if that might ultimately come back to bite you. If you decide that person isn't worthy of your time you won't have to stress about issues at work or with suppliers should that person take your decision too personally and look to get back at you.
Being cautious is not just for the fairer sex. Men need to take the same precautions as women to avoid unsafe encounters for them and their family. A few horror stories have surfaced related to internet connections gone bad. Men also need to avoid unwanted visitors at their home or office.
Sharing your complete identity from top to bottom comes with time and shouldn't be taken for granted. Bring topics of discussion to your conversations and dates to avoid the desire to share too much, too soon. If you start talking, at length, about where you grew up and schools you attended that person may know mutual acquaintances that could blow your identity. If you ever have a strange feeling about someone, but can't quite put your finger on it, go with your instinct.
Dating websites provide a wonderful opportunity to meet great singles and even your potential sole mate. However, sketchy people sometimes lurk online and utilizing precautions is important to you and your family's safety. Remember to go slow and utilize the provided forms of communication through the dating website to maintain your private identity.
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