It’s good to remember that people on the internet aren’t always who they say they are. But it’s also good to remember that there are a finite number of people in your community, and the people you meet online are the very same people you see at the grocery store, the mall, and your church. If you follow some basic safety protocols, you can safely meet up with people you find on the web. Here’s what you need to know.
There’s not much point in online dating if you refuse to go on dates with people you meet online, and yet many people are so fearful or jaded that they never meet anyone in person. There are a lot of con artists in online dating, but they usually won’t ask to meet you. They’re probably not local to you (even if they say they are) and will usually ask you to wire money to them for a medical or travel emergency without actually going on a date.
Still, you want to be safe when meeting up with dates, so take some common sense precautions. Don’t give out your address, landline phone number, or last name until you’ve met someone several times. Offer to meet in a public space; coffee houses are a popular choice because it’s a low-pressure, low-cost date. Arrive early so your date won’t know which car is yours, and buy your own coffee before your date arrives, so there’s no awkwardness around money.
Social sites like Meetup.com offer an easy way to find local people who share your interests and engage with them in real life. You can join groups that go on hikes, discuss books, meet at ethnic restaurants, or take political action. These groups are a great way to make friends if you’re new to an area or just want to get out more. Meetup groups are generally safe, but there are a few red flags to watch for. Newly-formed groups with no history could be questionable. Look for well-established groups with lots of members and plenty of past activities, and make sure the first meetup you attend is in a public space.
Buying and Selling
Craigslist transactions can put you in dangerous situations, but there are ways to use Craigslist safely. If you’re buying or selling a small item, try to meet in public, in a well-lit parking lot. If the transaction must take place at your home, see if you can talk a friend into coming over that day. If you have to go to someone else’s home, make sure you’re heading to a safe neighborhood, and take a friend with you if possible. At the very least, be sure someone knows where you are going and will be watching for you to check in after your meeting.
The internet is a great tool for meeting people if you follow some basic safety precautions. Keep these tips in mind when you plan your connections, and always trust your instincts.