7 safety tips to remember for online dating

When searching for Mr. or Ms. Right, online dating is now so widely accepted that personal safety sometimes gets overlooked.

After all, most dates that start online end up in either a love connection or with the two of you going your separate ways.

But it is easy to let your guard down or find yourself in an unsafe situation — especially if Grey Goose swoops in. That’s why it’s important to have a few common-sense strategies that keep you safe, according to law enforcement experts and others. 

Here are seven tips to keep in mind as you look for love online:

1. Tell someone

“Tell your friends where you’re going and when you’ll be home,” said Helen Fisher, a senior research fellow with the famed Kinsey Institute and chief scientific advisor to Match.com. Create a routine with a buddy that includes checking in by phone if the date goes to another location, when it wraps up and when you’re safely home. Sure, it seems like a lot of work — unless something actually goes wrong.

2. Go easy on the alcohol

Sorry for the buzzkill, but Fisher advises making the first date alcohol free. If you do drink, Det. Trent Thurber, who works on the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s high-tech task force, suggested limiting alcohol and added, “Don’t let someone bring a drink to you unless you see it come straight from the bar or waitstaff.” (“Since the beginning of 2015, there have been 85 reported incidents of rape by intoxication” in Los Angeles County, he said.)

3. Limit the personal data you reveal

This goes beyond what you reveal to a Tinder date. In general, practice a little discretion, experts said. You don’t want personal details, such as your address, or precisely where you plan to be on Saturday night, floating around out there on social media. Most of the time, it won’t matter — unless it does. 

4. Do a little online sleuthing

Although you don’t want to reveal too much about yourself, don’t hesitate to take advantage of a suitor who doesn’t follow suit. Local celebrity chef Devin Alexander said she Googles every date — even searching for their photos and phone number.

“You’d be surprised what I’ve found. Everything from people’s addresses to engagement announcements, to someone selling an engagement ring on Craigslist,” Alexander said. “This stuff can lead to learning who the person really is.” (And maybe how old they really are.)

5. Talk — actually talk — before the first date

It may be tempting to schedule the first date via text message. But don’t. Talking by phone will help you get a feel for the person, Thurber said. 

“Ask as many questions as you can to vet them … even ask some awkward questions,” says Thurber. “Ask if they have ever been arrested,” Thurber suggested. (No doubt, a bold question, and the person could lie. But how they respond allows your intuition to kick in.)

6. There’s safety in crowds

Hiking seems like a romantic first date, considering all the great hiking and walking spots available in Los Angeles County. But a hiking date could take you to a remote location with a stranger, and it’s likely to mean spending hours together with someone you might have an immediate aversion to.

Fisher suggests keeping the first date to about one hour, and “always meet in a public place during the day.”

7. Go home — alone

This might be the single most controversial bit of advice on this list. (It certainly sounds boring and old fashioned.) But Thurber argued his point this way: You’re still getting to know this stranger. Whether he or she becomes the love of your life is yet to be determined — that’s why it’s always good to exercise some caution, he said.

What do you think? Any advice that we should have mentioned? Or should have left out? 

Tell us at Health@latimes.com

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