I found these safety tips on Adult Friend Finder. I have not always followed all of them, and have been just fine, but they are worthwhile to peruse and to think about why they might be good tips or not depending on your situation.
In the end, you are an adult, and what you decide to do is your business. - EmilyOnline Dating Personals: Safety Tips
While the Internet provides millions of opportunities for people to meet, you must remember to use common sense. It's easy to get swept-up into a fantasy world, but reality begs for us to use caution. Like the offline world, the online world has its ups and downs - good people and bad people. While the majority of people can be trusted, we must all be aware of the scammers, liars and the rare but present predators. While there are risks, hiding from the world is not the answer. There are many ways to protect yourself and find someone online! Here are several tips for you to remember.
Online Dating in General...
1) Use caution when choosing a handle. Select a handle that will attract the kind of person you are interested in meeting. Using a handle that has a sexual connotation will get noticed - not always by the type of person you'd like to have a relationship with, much less a conversation with. A gender-neutral handle may also be a plus and help fend off the jerks and creeps.
2) Never, ever give out personal information. This may be the most important thing for you to remember. Your personal information includes your real name, telephone number, personal email or home address. If they want to send something to you through the mail, get a post office box. They're not expensive! No matter how nice the other person may seem, you do not know them. While most people are decent, you can never be absolutely sure. Don't risk having this information fall into the wrong hands.
3) On the telephone?
* Activate your caller ID blocking feature to keep your number private.
* Don't call collect! Your number will show up on their phone bill.
* If you want the other person to be able to contact you, get a pager.
* Use a payphone. It may be a hassle, but well worth it!
* Purchase temporary cell phone with preloaded minutes.
4) Location is everything. You haven't told the other person your name, phone number or any other personal information. But, you've told them all about living in Anytown, USA with a population of only 1,102. Think someone who really wanted to could find you? The answer is yes. Telling someone that you live in a small town, even omitting your actual address, is not the way to go. On the other hand, saying you live in New York is probably a pretty safe bet!
5) Get a current picture. Use a current picture. This may not exactly be a safety issue - but more of an honesty issue. Be honest and post a current photo even if you've gained a few pounds! If the other person's picture seems to be outdated, and they refuse to update it, you must put them in the "dishonest" pile. Even if you do not have a scanner, there's a variety of cheap and easy ways to get a photo scanned. There's no reason for someone to lie, unless they're hiding something. Don't put up with their dishonesty.
Communication and Red Flags...
1) Get the details. Feel free to scrutinize the emails and chat sessions you have with another person. If they seem too good to be true, they probably are. If they're vague about their life, try to non-intrusively get some details. Red flags are people who are vague, talk in circles, or answer questions with questions. Be very cautious with these types of people. They may be playing hard to get, or they may not be on the level.
2) Are they hiding something? If the other person can only meet and chat with you in the middle of the night, they may have a secret. If you call them and they talk in a hushed voice or "have to go" all of a sudden, they may not be as single as they claim. If you call at a non-designated time and they get angry, feel free to assume that they're hiding something from you. Red flags are anyone who uses fancy footwork, excuses, or evasive maneuvers when asked straightforward questions. If they cannot be honest with you from the get-go, don't count on them to ever be forthright.
3) Instant love may not be what it seems. While you may feel an instant connection or powerful attraction to a person online, this does not qualify as falling in love. It may however fall under puppy love, infatuation, and even lust. But scammers and con artists have used the "I'm in love with you" angle offline for countless years. What's stopping them from going online to make their next score? Love takes time no matter what the fairy tales imply. Red flags are people who, after minimal online contact, express their undying love. Other hints may be that shortly after talking about being in love with you, they also mention how broke they are, how they just got laid off from work, or how their accountant took off with all their money. While the other person may just be a lonely soul who's truly attracted to you, you can never be sure. Slow things down and don't let "love" rob you blind.
4) Get their background checked, especially if you're planning to take the next step and meet the other person face to face. By that point, you should know their name, so put your mind at ease with a background check. You can find several services online, many for a reasonable price. Even if you don't notice any red flags or get a gut instinct to back off, it's a matter of respecting yourself and your safety. Your only red flag here will show up in black and white.
5) Don't put off meeting in person. While online relationships can be full of romance and intrigue, your ultimate goal is to meet someone, date them and possibly more. Why put it off? Why invest in a relationship online if it's going nowhere offline? Make sure the spark you get from your chat sessions and email also exists in the "real world". Red flags are anyone who puts it off or avoids answering your questions about meeting. And remember, if you do not have the money to invest in a long distance relationship, don't start one. Online dating requires that your brain and your heart work together to make the best and safest decisions for you.
Going Offline for a Meeting...Safety First
1) Once you've agreed to meet face to face, don't ask the other person to pick you up. Get yourself to and from the date, even if you have to beg a ride off of a friend or take a taxi.
2) Before you go, make sure that several friends and family members know where you're going, who you're going with and when to expect you back. Make sure everyone writes down the information so that there are no misunderstandings.
3) Always meet in a public place. A public place does not mean a parking lot - they are not monitored closely enough to be considered safe. Make your first meeting a lunch or coffee date. If the sparks don't fly, it's much easier to say that you have a meeting or some other commitment that requires you to end the date prematurely.
4) Stay in a public place. If they pressure you to go elsewhere, say NO. If they pressure you, they obviously don't care about your feelings - don't spare their feelings. End the meeting and leave. If they start to follow you to where you've parked, stop and hail a cab. Come back later for your car with a friend or family member.
5) If possible, bring a cellular phone. If you need help or feel a little nervous, excuse yourself to the bathroom and call for back up! Put together an instant, "accidental" meeting with a friend. They're also good for emergencies or in case you think your online love is an offline stalker who's following you home. Use the cellular phone to call the police - just don't head back home. Keep the person far from there. Drive to a police station if you feel it's necessary.
6) Never leave your personal belongings unattended. A purse or wallet contains all of your personal information. In your jacket pocket could be your keys. Just don't take the risk.
7) Do not leave your beverage unattended. If you do, nonchalantly ask for another drink.
Stick with non-alcoholic drinks. Being drunk is not a good way to be safe.
9) If all goes well, set-up another date before the first one comes to an end. Use your best judgment and gut instincts to determine whether or not the other person is worthy of a second date. Be sure that this second date (and any others thereafter) incorporates all of these safety tips. You're worth the effort! If the other person truly cares about you, they'd expect nothing less.
A Thousand Miles from Home...Extra Tips for Meeting a Long Distance Interest Be sure to use all of the tips mentioned above, plus the following tips if you plan to travel to meet your online interest:
1) DO NOT plan to stay at the other person's home for your visit. If you cannot afford a hotel, do not go.
2) If you've made hotel reservations, do not tell the other person where you're staying. They don't need to contact you there. You can contact them.
3) Let them meet you at the airport, but do not get in a car with them. They can help you with your baggage and help you hail a cab. Use cabs as your mode of transportation throughout your trip.
4) Be sure to keep in touch with friends and family. Have a schedule in place as to when you should call. And make sure they know where you're staying and how to reach you. Again, this is a good time to carry and use a cellular phone.
5) Just in case...keep your valuables in an in-room safe or in with the front desk - they often have safety deposit boxes available for free or a minimal charge.
6) When you leave, just to be sure, meet them at the airport to say goodbye.