Online dating is fun. You could meet new friends and expand your social circle. Better yet, you might find the match you’ve been looking for.

If you haven’t tried online dating yet, here are eight simple guidelines for your success.

1. Start slow.

Try searching on reputable online dating sites. You should look out for someone who is too good to be true for the first time. You should trust your instincts.

2. Protect yourself.

You should not reveal your true identity until you feel comfortable about doing so. Do not instantly give your full name, contact numbers, home address, and other details where others can check your profile. Get a free email address, such as Yahoo or Gmail, and use this until you feel confident enough to give your real email address.

3. Exercise common sense and caution.

Practice caution in easily trusting other people. Use common sense in making decisions. Take your time in determining the person’s integrity and motives. Pay attention every time you communicate. It is human nature to trust first, but try to be objective, to begin with.

4. Ask for a photo.

Ask for a photo of a prospective match, not just because you want to see if they are good-looking. If possible, ask for several photos in different settings: Formal, casual, outdoors, and indoors. In that way, you would have an idea of what he or she looks like.

5. Do not just chat online.

An electronic chat would not suffice. Talk on the telephone to assess the social and communication skills of your date. Avoid calling from home. Try calling from a cell phone or a telephone booth. Only when you are completely comfortable should you give your home number.

6. Meet only when you are completely ready.

Meet only when you feel secure and ready to meet your online date. Do not feel obliged or persuaded to meet the other person, even if he or she insists, if you are not yet ready.

7. Check for danger.

If you decide to finally meet, pay close attention to any violent displays, intense frustration, or moves to control or pressure you.

8. Meet only in a secure place.

When meeting your date, especially for the first time, meet him or her in a safe place. Tell a friend who your date is and your plans for the night. Set a time during your date where your friend can call you and ask if everything is okay.

It is better to be safe than sorry. Online dating has some perks and can be genuinely rewarding, but it is important to remember that it can have its pitfalls.

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