Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. If you purchase an item that I link to then I will make a small commission, at no extra cost to you.
In the early days of the internet, it was common advice to never meet up with somebody in person if you’d only spoken to them online. But these days, it’s more common than ever before, whether you’re meeting with somebody who you got talking to on an online dating service or meeting up with a friend you made in a Facebook group. More often than not, if you’re meeting somebody that you’ve only ever spoken to online, it will either be a social call or a casual business deal, like selling your TV on Craigslist. While most of the time the outcome is good, it’s always important to be aware of the risks and know how to stay safe.
Vet Them Before You Meet Up
While it’s common sense to give out as little information on yourself as possible when meeting somebody from the internet, ironically, your first goal should be to find out as much information on them as you can. If you’ve added them on Facebook or started following them on Twitter and Instagram, take some time to look into their profile to ensure that they’re not sharing anything that could potentially be a red flag. You might also find it useful to look up Police Department Records on them to find out if they have ever been arrested or convicted of a crime in the past; this is especially useful if you’re meeting somebody for a date. Public Records Reviews is a good place to start; you can use this site to find all kinds of information on somebody with just their name.
Plan the Encounter
Once you’ve done your research in finding out who the person is and made sure that you don’t have any concerns about meeting them, set up a plan for the meeting. It can help to have some safe backup locations along with the initial meeting place; for example, if you are meeting somebody to sell an item, they might have trouble finding the place you agreed on, or if you’re going on a date or meeting somebody in a social setting, you might want to leave your initial meeting place and go somewhere else.
Share Your Location
Before you head out to meet somebody, whether it’s a date, a friend, or somebody that you’re buying an item from, it’s a wise idea to let somebody you trust know where you are going, who you are with and how long you expect to be. You can set up your smartphone to share your location with a friend or family member so that they can check up on you and make sure that you are where you’re supposed to be. Find My Friends is a handy feature that iPhone users can use or if you have an Android phone, there are plenty of apps you can download. If you’re meeting somebody as a friend or to buy or sell an item, consider taking somebody else with you.
Have an Exit Strategy
If you’re meeting up with somebody to go on a date or as a friend, you want it to go as smoothly as possible and have the two of you planning to meet up again soon by the end. But things don’t always go to plan, so it’s a good idea to plan how you are going to get out of your meeting if needed. If you’re selling or buying something, it’s usually quite simple; once you’ve exchanged the goods and are happy, you’re both on your way. But for romantic or friendly encounters, it can be more complicated. Avoid getting in a vehicle with somebody that you don’t know very well and if possible, set up a safe zone that a friend or family member can meet up with you at quickly if needed.
The good news is that most of the time, meeting somebody from the internet goes smoothly whether you’re going on a date, meeting up with an online friend or selling your old laptop. However, it’s always important to be alert. If you’re meeting up with a friend or romantic interest for the first time, it’s probably best to avoid going to a bar, or instead get a non-alcoholic drink from the menu, because getting drunk can lower your inhibitions and make you less alert to potential hazards. No matter how well you appear to be getting on with somebody, it’s probably best to give it some more time before you decide to meet up with them in private, pay them a visit at home or allow them to visit you at your home; it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
Meeting up with people from online can be a great way to make friends or even find a romantic partner, but it can also have its risks. So, be sure to keep these tips in mind and stay safe if you’re meeting in person with somebody you’ve only spoken to online so far.