Making start-up acquaintances online can be an exciting way to correspond and contact new friends from all over the world or from just around the corner. However, as with any venture into new territory, there are safety issues to consider.
Realize that meeting someone online can be the same as encountering a stranger on the street. You know absolutely nothing about the person, and wouldn’t just reveal everything about yourself to a stranger. Consider some safety tips about online contacts.
1. Be extra careful with personal info. Instead of giving everything online, sign up with an internet dating service. That way you can keep confidential until you decide whether to pursue any new contacts.
2. Online dating services claim they screen all subscribers and then match you with appropriately safe contacts. However, once you give your email address and other personal information online, the match-up is not completely safe.
To keep your confidentiality, create a new email address for online contacts. Don’t reveal those you’ve been using for business, banking, correspondence and other everyday transactions.
3. Some online services are free, while others charge fees. Always be aware of scams. One of the most dangerous is when your new acquaintance asks for the number of your credit card or other financial information.
The request may come with a sad story of poverty or illness, and often with promises that it will all be paid back after you meet. If you’re approached in any suspicious way, discontinue all contacts immediately.
4. Once you’ve determined to get together with people you’ve met online, continue to be aware of personal safety. Arrange the first meet in a mutually agreed-upon public place, such as a museum, park or pub.
When you’re finally face-to-face, don’t be surprised if the person doesn’t look anything like the glossy, retouched online photo. It may be OK if the face is a bit less attractive or a bit older. However, if the difference is suspicious, end the meeting. To be polite, you may stay for coffee or a drink, then make your permanent exit.
5. If you believe the meeting is successful, make a date for dinner, theater or concert, It’s safer meeting at the location, rather than at your home. Then, after another date or two, if the relationship appears to be based on total honesty and mutual trust, go for it. And good luck to you!