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Playing it Safe Online  by Linda Alexander, Esq. 

Before You Meet 
First Date Know-How 
 
The Internet has become the hot new place for smart, eligible people to find romance, and those looking for love are swarming into cyberspace. As a result, many individuals have begun relationships online with people they have not met and know little about. 
  
With so many people communicating via the Net and deciding to date virtual strangers, it is important to be safe and be smart. Common sense can go a long way to keep you safe. Here are some guidelines for playing it safe: 
  
Watch out for someone who seems too good to be true. 
  
Begin by first communicating solely by email or online chat. Be vigilant in noticing odd behavior or inconsistencies. If someone is evasive, this is a red flag. "Listen" to your correspondent's words. The person at the other end may not be who or what he/she says. Trust your instincts. If anything makes you uncomfortable, walk away for your own safety and protection. 

Find out as much information as you can. 
Learn to ask many questions. Find out where he grew up, where she works, and how he is connected to his community. These are clues to finding out who this person really is. Be suspicious, if someone is unwilling to reveal any personal identifying information. Probe any discrepancies in their stories. If your correspondent is unwilling to answer your questions, this is another red flag. Continue with a great deal of caution. 
  
Honesty is the key to success. 
Represent yourself accurately. Exaggerating or deceiving is easy online. Areas to be particularly cautious about are marital status and physical appearance. Begin with a request for a picture and send them a recent one of you. If someone is unwilling to send a recent photo, this is warning sign. If he or she continuously comes up with an excuse, it is because that person has something to hide. Having a scanned photo is available at Kinko's for less than ten dollars, so there is no valid excuse for not doing it. After you have exchanged photos, continue to fill in the gaps, so that the other person does not create you in their image. Keep it honest. 
  
Talk on the telephone and continue to learn more about your correspondent. 
A phone call can reveal a lot about a person's communication and social skills. It is worth the cost of the call to protect your security. But do not give out your phone number to a stranger. Trust takes time to develop. Only when you feel completely comfortable should you furnish your phone number. 
  
Don't rush into anything. 
Meeting someone online and then arranging a date in a relatively short time can be dangerous. Take time to find out who this person really is. If someone is pressuring you to get together before you are ready, this is another warning sign. If anything feels strange as you get to know this person, then it is time to back away and look for another match. 
  
If you decide to meet for a date, proceed with caution. Arrange the meeting on your terms. The following is a guide to ensure that you have a safe encounter:


Before You Meet 
  
Before you go out with someone new, it is important to get as much information as you can about the person you will meet. 
1. Always ask for a full name, address, and telephone number before agreeing to go out with someone you have never met. If you are female, always dial *67 before you dial the man's number so he doesn't have your phone number until you want him to.   Ask lots of questions before you decide to meet this person.
 
2. Never go out with someone who will only give you a pager or work phone number. (There is a very good chance of a spouse in the house.) 
 
3. When someone gives his or her phone number, find a reason to call unexpectedly. This may help you to find out if she is married or he is living with someone. 
 
4. Find out where the person works and if you can call him or her at work 


First Date Know-How 
 
Be careful when agreeing to meet anyone in person.  
Set the conditions for your date and do not let the other person change them. Remember, you really do not know someone until you spend time with them in person. 
  
1. Always tell someone where you are going with your date and when you will return. Leave your date's full name and telephone numbers with that person and write it down. For a small fee, you can leave information regarding where you are going and all the pertinent details with a service called SmartDate at http://www.smartdate.com. If your date wants you to keep it secret, this is a very big red flag. Protect yourself. 
 
2. Always meet in a public place that you are familiar with on your first date. Stay near other people in a lighted area. Getting together for coffee is a pleasant, casual way to get to know someone. 
 
3. Never allow yourself to be picked up from your house. Giving your address out to a stranger is not safe. Arrange your own transportation so that you can leave if there is any sign of trouble. 
  
4. Pay attention to everything that this person has told you about him or herself. If you find out that your date has lied about anything, this is another red flag. 
  
5. Do not bring your date back to your house after the first meeting. You do not know this person. Use the same kind of common sense and rules that you would use in any type of dating relationship. 
  
Be smart and be safe. Take control of your future. Know what you are getting into before you invest your heart, money, or your life. Information is the key. 

Linda Alexander, Esq. is president of WhoisHe.Com and WhoisShe.Com, a professional service that provides (for a small fee) a personal profile and background check on your cyber-date or potential mate. WhoisHe.Com furnishes the most current public record information, usually within twenty-four hours of your request.


Now that you've got some safety tips, be bold. Check out Match.com

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