So you’ve met this guy online, and he seems to be pretty cool. You’ve messaged back and forth, stalked all his pictures, and maybe you’ve even had a phone call or two. You think you’re ready to take the next step and meet him in person… but how can you be sure it’s safe?
Whether it’s for a hookup or a happily-ever-after, connecting with someone can be a wonderful experience. Unfortunately, when this connection starts online, there tends to be some risk involved. It’s true that not all men you meet while online dating are creeps; there’s as good a chance you could run into one of those in line at Starbucks. Still, there’s just something about hiding behind a screen that can give some people the balls to do things they wouldn’t otherwise do — like lie about themselves, or their intentions. In any case, it’s probably wise to take some precautionary measures.
Make sure he is who he says he is. It’s frighteningly easy for people to lie about themselves online, especially if the interaction is mostly text-based. While video chatting has risen in popularity, watching that dazzling smile over Skype won’t tell you any more about the sordid details of his past than his charming emails do. A background check, however, will. What if he’s secretly married? Or isn’t actually from Rhode Island? If he’s lying about these things, what else could he be hiding? (A sex offender registration, perhaps?) While it’s nice to take people at their word, it’s much safer to be sure. There are a lot of people out there – especially in the world of online dating – who are willing to take advantage of the anonymity of the Internet. Getting a background check can help prove whether or not this guy is one of them.
Secure an Emergency Extraction Person. This is a trusted friend who is willing to be “on-call” for the duration of the date. When meeting someone from online, we all know it’s important to tell a friend where we’re going and who we’re going with; but if something were to go wrong, how can you be sure that friend will help? What if you need to get picked up, or a reason to cut the date short? Your friend should not only know where you are, but be ready and waiting to help you out if things start to go south fast.
Set up a safe call. A safe call is a pre-planned phone call to let your EEP know that you are, well, safe. To set it up, you’ll need to agree on coded phrases to let your friend know if things are going great or if you need immediate assistance. Try to pick something that won’t tip off your date; for example, “I’m having a great time!” could actually be code for “I’m literally dying and need you to call back in 10 minutes so I have a reason to bail.” Or, you could flat-out tell your date that you’re planning to call a friend to let them know how things are going. If a man is understanding about your concern for safety, then he’s probably on your side.
Send your GPS location. While this can always be found after the fact if you ever go missing, you probably won’t want to get to that point in the first place. There are appsthat let you share your location in real time with a trusted few people. This is especially important if your date is picking you up, or if you plan on going back to his place later. That way, if a guy who seemed okay at first starts getting all weird on you in his apartment, your EEP will know where you are and can send for help so that you don’t end up stranded in an uncomfortable situation.
Snap a pic of his license plate. It’s right out there for everyone to see, and it’s perfectly legal to do. In the absolute worst-case scenario, you want your EEP to have as much information as possible to get you the help you need. With a license plate number, anyone can find out the name, address and type of car your date is driving. (And if you think this is scary, imagine how much scarier it could be if you find yourself caught up in some serious stuff, and your friend doesn’t have this info.) If you want, you can tell the man you’re with that you’ve got a pic of his car tags; even this could be enough to deter potential predators from acting out. Besides, a good guy should have nothing to hide.
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