With technology giving us so many options to meet people, it has become more and more common to date through the internet. By matching up with others, there is the advantage of choosing from thousands of potential candidates without even leaving the house. There is the option to ask for specific traits, making it easier now than ever to find the perfect match. However, online dating can be dangerous, for virtually anyone can make an account and pose as someone else. Even worse, they can use their account to gather information and hurt others. Here are some pointers that will ensure online safety: Double-check their profile. Once a connection is made with someone, there needs to be precaution before agreeing to meet them. The first precaution is making sure their profile is real. Many dating sites have a verification system themselves, in which the profile will appear as verified. Look for this. In addition, ask them for a couple of other social media accounts that they might have. Make sure they publish a variety of photos and have real friends, who comment real things on their posts. Meet in a public space. For a first date, it’s always super important to meet in a public place, like a library, coffee shop, restaurant or mall. This way, there are fewer risks because there are people watching, and it also makes easier to leave without causing a scene if there is any discomfort or sense of danger. For extra safety, make sure the place has more rather than fewer people. The more witnesses, the less likely a crime will be committed. Let a person you trust know what’s going on. It’s important that someone else, like a close friend, parent, or sibling knows about the meet-up beforehand. They should have the date, time, location, and profile of the potential date so in case anything happens, they know how and where to help you. In case of an emergency, a simple text saying “help” will do. There’s no need to type in all the information they already know, which will save time at the very least. Keep an eye out for red flags. Anyone who asks for money, asks for explicit pictures, sends explicit pictures, or refuses to give too much public information, is probably not trustworthy. These are typical behaviors of scammers, who just want to get something out of every profile they encounter. If the person agrees to meet and keeps postponing the date: that is also a red flag. Catfishers (people who pretend to be others online and get to know people through their fake profiles) use this tactic. They connect with other people but never meet them because, in reality, they’re different than whoever is in their pictures. Report any fake profiles. Finally, if it becomes apparent that one of the profiles is not real, report it. This will help keep the online dating community safe. If everyone reports fake profiles, it’s like a constant weeding of the dating garden, making sure it’s always functioning and safe.