More and more people are trying out online dating sites to meet that special someone. It’s no longer embarrassing to answer, “So how did you meet?” by saying that you met on the internet. Internet dating has many benefits, but there are safety issues to consider, since the ‘net allows for greater anonymity and therefore, a greater chance that your date could be lying to you about who he or she really is.

Online Persona

Anyone who has heard about adult predators masquerading as 13-year-old boys in order to prey on impressionable youth knows that it’s easy to pretend to be someone you’re not online. To make sure that the 28-year-old stockbroker you’re talking to isn’t really a 45-year-old bus driver, keep an eye out for inconsistencies. If he tells you a detail of his life on Monday that drastically changes by Wednesday, feel free to call him on it. If you’re paying attention, you can usually weed out the liars fairly easily.

Dirty Talk

Unless you are looking specifically for an “intimate encounter” on a free chat line avoid talking about your sex life until after you meet your potential date in real life. If the person you’re interested in says that he or she is looking for a long-term relationship, but keeps asking for sexy pictures and talking dirty, there’s a good chance you’re not on the same page and you should move on to the next potential mate.

All in the Details

Before you meet potential dates, keep the specific details of your life to yourself. Do not give them your home address or tell them where you work. You can tell them what part of the city you live in or what you do for a living, but avoid saying, “I live on Maple Street” or “I work on the corner of 8th and Preston.” You may even want to hold off on giving your last name; at least until you’re relatively sure you can trust them.

Get All the Info You Can

While you want to be careful with sharing your own personal details, you should get as much information from the other person as possible. He or she may not want to share specific information either, but you should, at the very least, see pictures (more than one, to be sure it’s not some random image grabbed from the internet) and get the person’s phone number.

For women, this step may be more important. Since it is statistically more likely that he poses a threat to you than vice versa, you can insist on getting his full name and any other details that will make you feel more secure. You could also try Googling him to see what comes up, but don’t freak out if you find contradictory information; your town might have more than one John Smith.

For the Record

Never meet a stranger for a date without telling someone where you’re going. Write down his or her name, phone number and any other important details and leave them with your roommate, friend or co-worker. It may be a good idea to have a friend make a mid-date phone call to check if everything’s going okay.

Pick a Place

For your first meeting, pick a neutral, public place where you both feel comfortable. Don’t pick your favourite coffee shop or the bar at which you’re a regular. If the date goes awry, you don’t want to risk running into the person at a place you frequent. Do not get your date to pick you up. Make your own way to the meeting place and have a reliable way to get home.

Behave Yourself

While on the date, limit your drinking in order to stay sharp and watch your drink just like you would at the bar. Flirting is good, but avoid getting all touchy feely if you want your date to take you seriously for more than one night. Even if your internet match is perfect and the date is awesome, you should still resist the urge to invite him or her back to your place. Keep some mystery for the second date!