Amy Stevens Seal is a dating coach and matchmaker based in Utah.
As a veteran online dater (and success story), I thoroughly enjoyed the ability to proactively find dates when other methods weren’t producing results. Even though most of my dates came from LDS-focused websites, I learned firsthand the importance of keeping my guard up and following my instincts. There are many things you can do to keep yourself safe from scams and predators. It would be a shame to eliminate the Internet altogether as an option for meeting potential dates since at least one-third of marriages are now the result of online dating.
It’s important to note that the majority of scary dating stories happen when a woman lets her guard down, gives too much personal information, meets in a nonpublic place, or gets in a car with someone she really doesn’t know. Too often women lose their common sense or abandon their self-protection to a total stranger when it seems like there is a romantic connection.
Sometimes it does feel like there is instant chemistry and even a spiritual connection with someone we meet online, as if they “get us” or we have known them forever. It’s important to remember that a true connection builds over time and includes consistent trustworthy behaviors.
#1 FIND OUT ABOUT YOUR DATE BEFORE MEETING IN PERSON
There is a fine line between spending too much time getting to know someone online and not enough time to feel safe enough to meet for a date. A general rule of thumb is to exchange 4–5 substantial messages and preferably talk on the phone to get a feel for their personality. Get to know someone before disclosing personal information or meeting in person. Never include your last name, home address, place of work, or any other identifying information in your initial communications.
#2 MEET SOONER RATHER THAN LATER
Avoid the temptation to spend too much time and energy on the relationship before you meet by keeping your options open. Experts agree that emailing and dating a few different people at the same time in the early stages of dating helps you avoid becoming too focused on one person. It also takes the pressure off and allows you to be yourself and enjoy the process more fully.
#3 TELL A FRIEND DETAILS ABOUT YOUR DATE
Have a friend or family member act as your personal security adviser; this will help you stay safe and make the process more enjoyable. Make sure you give them all of the details you have about the individual you are meeting and your plans for the date. Have your cell phone with you to notify them of any changes.
It’s not necessary to have your security adviser be at the same place as your date (although it can’t hurt), but if you feel particularly cautious about a certain date or are new to the process, it might be a fun way to get them involved.
#4 ALWAYS MEET (AND STAY) IN A PUBLIC PLACE
Choose the time and place of your date wisely. Meet for the first time in a public location at a decent hour when lots of people will be around—never in a private or remote location, and never at your or your date’s home or apartment. It is important not to go back to your date’s home or bring them back to yours on the first date. If your date pressures you, end the date and leave at once.
#5 BE CAUTIOUS AND LISTEN TO YOUR GUT
Take notice of red flags and listen to your instincts. Drive yourself to and from the date. In case things don’t work out, you need to be in control of your own ride—even if you take a taxi. Keep personal items with you at all times to avoid having your personal information stolen. Keep your beverage with you and in sight always so that it can’t be tampered with. Stay alert, keep a clear mind, and avoid doing anything that would impair your judgment and cause you to make a decision you could regret.
In summary, be cautious and use common sense. Trust your instincts and remember that you have control over the situation. If you’re talking to someone online or by phone and they say things that raise your suspicions, come up with a way to end the conversation. And last but not least, don’t forget to have fun!